In 2012, sick of her job and uncertain about her marriage, Dinan (Life on Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide to Living Your Dreams, 2013, etc.) quit work and persuaded her reluctant husband to sell their house and other belongings and take off for more than two years to travel around the world.
Along with them went the envelope of the title, which contained $1,000 handed to them by Dinan’s former boss, with the instruction that the money was to be given away during the trip. She attached three provisos: “Don’t over think it”; “Share your experiences (…if you want to)”; and “Don’t feel pressured to give it all away.” The first goal proved easier said than done; the second the author accomplishes in this book. At first waffling about whether she would seem condescending or culturally insensitive, she gradually began to feel comfortable with distributing the cash to a school where they volunteered in Ecuador, a rickshaw driver in India, a dog shelter, a Nepalese holy woman, and the owners of a turtle sanctuary in Bali. If the yellow envelope provides one strand unifying the book, Dinan’s marital troubles form the other. Readers looking for insight into the locales through which the author traveled instead receive sometimes-repetitive descriptions of quarrels in which the author blames her husband for her unhappiness and he refuses to take the blame. The two separated temporarily, with the author climbing “into a rickshaw with two women I’d never met before to drive the length of India on some of the world’s deadliest roads.” Overall, Dinan narrates a memorable adventure even if she spends a good deal of time brooding about her marriage.
Readers won’t accuse the author of sugarcoating her experiences, and if the narrative sometimes seems to bog down in self-analysis, it’s likely an accurate account of her interior life on the road.