A young woman recounts her adventures traveling through four countries in this vivid debut memoir.
In June 1993, 20-year-old Roose packed a shoulder bag, left a note on her boyfriend’s pillow and headed out to the open road to fulfill her childhood dream: “I wanted to experience life without structure or expectations, to be free to see the world and meet extraordinary people.” Since the days of Huckleberry Finn, the American character has been defined by a longing to light out for the territories. “The majority of the girls who hitchhiked didn’t really enjoy it,” she writes, but the independent Roose loved the thrill of hitchhiking for its own sake. In this memoir, Roose follows the peripatetic structure of a journey tale as she describes her experiences hitchhiking, walking and sailing around the United States, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, mostly sleeping rough out in the open. It sounds dangerous, but Roose writes that she seldom found herself in real peril. Her excellent character judgment helped, as did the kindness of strangers. One stranger she met, a man “about the size of a big refrigerator and very muscular,” bought Roose and her friends coffee at a diner; he turned out to be Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway: “he mentioned that we really ‘had some balls,’ and that he had always wanted to try hitchhiking and ‘wished he had the nerve to follow his dream.’” Roose’s courage, curiosity and openness led to some unusual and instructive experiences; for example, she lived with drug addicts and homeless people in a squat for a time, camped on a deserted island, and learned to recognize and use medicinal plants. She also learned to crochet and made and sold hats as her main source of income on the road. Despite Roose’s early naïveté during her journey—such as not suspecting that some surprisingly successful panhandlers were in fact robbing people—she has a strong practical streak that helps her live successfully in the moment. It’s a quality she brings to this enjoyable memoir.
One woman’s tale of adventure on the road, in the great American tradition.