Book Review – “The Expeditioner’s Guide to The World”

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expeditioners-guide-to-the-worldThe Expeditioner’s Guide to the World: Intrepid Tales of Awesomeness from the Open Road is a compilation of stories, poems, advice, and even a snarky traveler’s version of Bingo put together by the editors of TheExpeditioner.com – Matt Stabile, Luke Maguire Armstrong, and Jon Wick. The editors took the relatively new route of self-publishing via e-book in favor of retaining total control over the content. The result is a somewhat haphazard travel collection that a large publisher probably wouldn’t take on. But this path allowed for an approach using an offbeat sense of humor and led to the inclusion of enjoyable content that would have likely been sacrificed to the editing gods on a publisher’s cutting room floor.

The random collection is divided into nine categories including “Life on the Road”, “The Problems with Borders”, and “Zen and the Art of Obtaining the Elusive Travel Epiphany”. According to the editors, these sections “should help you navigate, or completely confuse you.” The sections aren’t actually confusing, but the content within them does feel disjointed at times given the mash-up of stories, poetry, and travel advice. The stories far outnumber the poetry and advice pieces, which is fortunate because the stories are the real stars. There are numerous fascinating, outstandingly written stories hidden between the virtual covers of this book. Some of the content (the advice portions, especially) is geared somewhat toward the younger travel set, but it should appeal to anyone who has flailed their way through a country or two.

A few of the e-book’s highlights include “An Unexpected Trip” by Katherine Lonsdorf, which beautifully describes the painful details of being attacked in Jordan and the mental journey from anger to acceptance and even appreciation for the experience. “To Cuba, with Love” by Luke Maguire Armstrong is a witty account of his travels in Cuba and his attempt to define why he even went. “If You’re Alive, How Could I Have Poisoned You?” by Mark Armstrong is jaw-dropping account of the perils of an innocent mistake that throws vast cultural differences under a blinding spotlight.

The only real outlier in the book is a piece titled “How To Write a Bad Travel Story”. Despite being an amusing article, it is not a tale (or a poem, or advice) from the open road. It would be fitting to include it in something along the lines of The Expeditioner’s Guide to Writing about the World, but in this particular book, it is out of place.

The ninth and final category of the book ends with a poem lamenting the inevitable requirement to retire one’s passport and give up those hard-earned (or bribed) visas and entry stamps in exchange for a sterile, blank replacement courtesy of the Department of State. Perhaps it is a hint for the rest of us venture back out and earn (or buy) a few more stamps. But the book doesn’t technically end there. The bonus material included at the end includes a Backpacker Bingo game full of hilarious backpacker stereotypes that anyone who has frequented a youth hostel or few will identify with. Even the acknowledgements are worth reading. Yes, really – the acknowledgements.

Despite the random mix-up of content, this book is an easy, enjoyable read that blends humor, wisdom, a touch of sarcasm, and a clear love and appreciation of travel on the part of both the editors and the authors. If you’re looking for books to download to that new Kindle Fire you just got for Christmas, then consider adding this one to your list.

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by Carla Rountree

Carla Rountree works as a freelance engineering consultant and opera singer. She spends any remaining spare time running, biking, traveling (of course), and writing at theinconsistentnomad.com. Carla is not to be trusted around Cool Ranch Doritos.

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