Book Review

Reviewing Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods

Reviewing Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods

In a Sunburned Country and had me audibly exclaiming from his brutal descriptions of small-town life. In this book, Bill attempts to charge through the over 2,100 miles of mountainous footpath called the Appalachian Trail. This is probably as close as I'll come to tackling the trail myself, and through what vehicle would this vicarious journey be better than through the eyes of an underprepared 40+ year-old journalist and his even more underprepared, undermotivated, overweight, formerly alcoholic comrade.

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Reviewing Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent

Reviewing Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent

Bryson writes the book, not for foreigners hoping to learn about rural America, but for those Americans themselves who are open to ambiguous sarcasm poking fun and awareness at their familiar lifestyles. He takes massive swings to the extreme, describing an acidic inner monologue at times, but successfully remains open to and enamored with the eccentricities of the American people and this vast land. As much as he finds certain aspects of small towns laughable, he finds the same things endearing. He's an outsider looking in, while remembering his insider mentality from the days of yore. He holds these memories dear. Sounds familiar.

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Reviewing Dean Cycon's Javatrekker

As much as I like to believe I'm aware of the world's atrocities and doing my part to make things better, I know I'm very much a negative factor in many world struggles that I'm both conscious of and oblivious to. I suppose my hourly efforts go out to world education, but being interested in travel and the world's communities seems to impress the importance of caring about everything.

coffee-bean

coffee-bean

Where does my clothing come from? Am I supporting local farmers? Did my beer get to me via cargo ship? Man...this coffee tastes delicious.

In terms of these worries, coffee is certainly a big kahuna. It's a safe assumption that young children today associate the Starbucks counter with the origin of coffee. And sadly, I think many adults and consumers think that far into the commerce chain when purchasing their daily jolt. I know I envision lush fields and no faces when I see names like Highland Grog and Java Sumatra, while trying to buy the cheapest concoction possible.

Where does the profit from our caffeine flow? Who benefits from my flavored latte? What is it like to grow coffee for a ravenous global market?

Deans Beans

Deans Beans

Dean is this dude. He is the founding dude of Deans Beans. He also calls himself a Javatrekker. He's all about organic beans and fair traded coffee, not "fairly" traded, loophole-filled commerce that leaves the farmers out cold and hungry. His book reads like a compilation of travel essays from someone who's had unique, and at times treacherous, experiences in the jungles, arid flatlands, and mountain ranges of the coffee lands.

Though I'm normally attracted to straight narratives, I found the mental globe trotting on the same theme a great overall adventure with an informative pulse, which will resonate with any consumer of any good. Let's check out Javatrekker: Dispatches From the World of Fair Trade Coffee.

The Storyline

Dig your little toesies into the arid soil of Ethiopia, the birthplace of the coffee bean - or at least the location of caffeine's discovery. Dean will walk you through the experience of getting clean, potable water to a region with a serious water paucity. Feel happy and inspired. Now head south to Kenya and get ready to rip the bureaucratic heads off those swindling the coffee farmers out of their money. And so this storyline oscillates from empowering and inspiring accomplishment to unfortunate setback and struggle.

Dean Cycon's Javatrekker

Dean Cycon's Javatrekker

Javatrekker: Dispatches From the World of Fair Trade Coffee

Take a big flying leap over to South America where Dean witnesses incredible feats of guerilla engineering, connects with ailing nature's call, and swallows crippling fear and pain to help a region whose political struggle beheld the demise of his friends. His essays indicate the world's vast array of problems all affect the already difficult task of growing beans: global warming, natural disaster, political uproar, world market prices, foreign aid, and more. It all reminded me of the butterfly effect.

Green Coffee

Green Coffee

Dean's trips aren't just about agriculture. Officially observing democratic elections and visiting victims of amputation via train wheels are his errands. Tying his product directly to the effects his industry can exacerbate not only reveals a pivotal awareness of the realities related to coffee but those of all products with middlemen and foggy ground between their origin and destiny.

Island-nations of Asia and the South Pacific host Dean's experiences, in locales seldom seen by the likes of any foreign eyes. Regions ripped to shreds by civil war and political corruption work with him to help their caffeinated cash crop industry. Bringing simple machines to villages that lost out on money for lack of regulation and timely output, Dean appears like a savior to these co-ops in need. However, he's always first to mention his own miscalculations and wrongdoings alongside those of his fellow man.

While Dean does focus on the difficulties of coffee growers, he fills the pages with descriptive prose on the rituals of coffee consumption, the cultural nuances of each community meeting, the similar human spirit that unites the world's population, as well as the distinctive differences that remind us the vast spread of the social platter. One doesn't need to be a lover of coffee to appreciate this compilation; travelers and the business-minded alike have great lessons to gain from reading this bad boy.

The Bottom Line

Javatrekker

Javatrekker

How are we supposed to work eight hours, exercise for one, get seven hours of sleep, chew 25 times per bite, find time for friends and family, visit the doctor, drink eight glasses of water, clean the litter box, and floss three times a day? Our lives are already packed with must-dos and obligations that seemingly cannot go undone. So then, how can we layer on top of our daily checklist complete and utter social responsibility that would accompany hours of research and product comparison?

In other words, how are we supposed to know which thing we eat, drink, or wear is best for the world?

Don't worry; you'll live a long time, long enough to take it all in stride and read books like this to cover each issue at a time. And now, coffee is covered! Deans Beans is standing alongside the farmer, helping him or her pay for their cost of operation, their family's well-being, and enabling their vertical climb in commerce and life. That sounds responsible to me.

Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from a friend, and there are affiliate links in this post. I believe this is a book worth purchasing as well as one worth sharing with your friends.

Reviewing David Lida's First Stop in the New World

Reviewing David Lida's First Stop in the New World

this book, come three or four chapters deep, wasn't yet rave-ish. David didn't write a travel narrative taking place in the hypermetropolis of Mexico City/Federal District (D.F.); he did something better than that. Working off twenty years of experience as an expat in Mexico's capital - as a journalist and, therefore, a well-informed observer of society - David describes this somewhat daunting land of 20+ million residents as THE example of the future of the urban future. We in America have no idea what's in store for our homes, that is unless we look deep into the essence and creation of the world's second largest metropolitan area.

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Reviewing J. Maarten Troost's Getting Stoned with Savages

Reviewing J. Maarten Troost's Getting Stoned with Savages

Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost, which wears a title that simultaneously excites and annoys me. I've heard this Dutch/Canadian/American's books touch on "Look how funny I am," and I've also seen his coverage of the South Pacific make lists like "The Top 50 Travel Narratives."

I read his chapters on Fiji before I traveled there and read the entire book upon landing back in America. I am now fully prepared to go at these pages with a critical eye.

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This year's popular posts

I'm very happy to report Nomadderwhere has come a long way since this time last year, when I moved from a simple blogspot to a bonafide domain of my own. Since that time I've changed my writing style and topics, grown a readership of surprisingly many (thanks to you), won the most amazing internship known to man, and turned this online outlet for my travel thoughts and work into something that may one day sustain me. For those of you just stopping by for the first time, this is probably the best post at which to start. According to my stats and Google analytics, these are the top posts for Nomadderwhere.

The Makings of a Travel Video

The Makings of a Travel Video

...I didn’t study telecommunications or video art in college, nor did I have a good operating system while making my application video last year. If you’re new at this, like I was, don’t worry because if you have a computer, some travel footage and a passion to produce, you can make some mean videos...Bottom line is to be aware of the story you are crafting and make sure it gives people a reason to watch beyond 10 seconds and a reason to stick around until the end. The music helps me monumentally with this step of the process.

Ten Great Ideas for Chicago

Ten Great Ideas for Chicago

...I received word from two different people that Cafe Ba-Ba-Reebas! in Lincoln Park had the greatest and most authentic tapas in the city. Since my cousin is a budding foodie and my other friend lived in Spain and learned to cook there, I took their advice as fast as I took down my sangria. Rioja short ribs with manchego mashed potatoes, house meat plate with serrano, salchichon, chorizo, chicken & artichoke paella, crispy spicy potatoes with sun-dried tomato alioli, and warm potato & onion omelette - everything tasted so flavorful, even my friends who had been here before were amazed and raving. The thrill of good food doesn’t get old...

My Friend, Evan Witty

My Friend, Evan Witty

...But he found more appeal in living with 100+ kids in a country he had no ties to. He wanted to move people and make physical and emotional necessities available to anyone. With that desire and an experience such as the one he had at Palm Tree, his life work was destined to be hugely impacting and awe-inspiring, and I'm so sorry we don't get to witness his next steps.But he passed with people who loved him and he loved in return, in his sleep on the beach in Cambodia...

Things I Didn't Know Before Coming to Greece

Things I Didn't Know Before Coming to Greece

...The Greek and Italian languages are nothing alike There’s no avoiding cigarette smoke in Greece…It’s everywhere In Greece, the party starts well after midnight and can continue into brunch time The water really is that blue...

Sometimes On the Road...You Miss Out

Sometimes On the Road...You Miss Out

...For some reason unknown to me and my surrounding web, I've decided it's okay to miss the things that matter most in order to blaze literal and personal trails towards anything from failure to success. This travel path can sound illogical and like a waste, but when I realize the passions I've acquired and the maturity I've obtained, I fear where I would be without all those 50+ flights to global destinations and potential moments of learning...

What is Nomadderwhere?

What is Nomadderwhere?

...Nomadderwhere is a philosophy: it doesn't matter where you are, it matters that you're always learning and flexing with your surroundings, whether you're traveling or stationary. To capture this idea is to capture the art of travel, to know the importance of movement and to become self-aware...because you are the only constant in your world...

Street Smarts: Transport Scams

Street Smarts: Transport Scams

...“So I know we agreed on 40 rupees to the Siliguri bus station, but I know you’re going to forget this deal, even though I wrote the fare down on my hand. I’m really hoping you’re an honest and swell guy who claims he has change when he really does.” With this sort of dialogue, it’s all about tone and appearance. Speak kindly and smile the entire time. It doesn’t work any other way. And a word from experience: the more you make them laugh, the better the fare becomes...

The Irony of my Lifestyle

The Irony of my Lifestyle

...Since I returned from a round-the-world trip on August 17th, I’ve done very little besides sit in front of screens – computer, TV, what-have-you. I seldom leave home or drive my car unless it’s purely necessary. Rarely do I step outside if not to summon my cat in at twilight, and the most exercise I get comes from group fitness classes at the gym down the street. I spent one weekend in northern Indiana with my best friends eating guacamole and floating on one long raft around Lake Tippicanoe, but that certainly can’t be all the excitement I can handle over a two month period. Why do I not carpe the diem when I’m not traveling?...

Reviewing Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild

Reviewing Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild

...What was certainly magnified by Krakauer's text was the reality that we humans harbor primordial desires, and it's on a sliding scale how much we allow these feelings to be heard and acted upon. It is my belief that travelers, adventurers, nomads and those hopeful to detach from the man-made structure of modern civilization are more responsive to those "calls of the wild." Unconventional living forces a constant reevaluation of one's life [and one's mortality], and when we are closer in mindset to our own expiration, it seems we connect closer to the motivations of our primitive ancestors...

Cruises, Destination, and the Authentic

Cruises, Destination, and the Authentic

...Within the open ocean is a sea of 60-40 couples, incredibly perky cougars on the prowl, families with seven year-old twins and recent divorcees taking back their lives, not to mention a slew of Rascals scooting about. Of course, every cruise liner caters to a different demographic, which accounts for the vast differences among the commercial cruising fleets, but what they all share is the sense of ease that, in the mind of a “bare-bones” traveler, strips the so-called adventure down to physical displacement and cognitive retirement, which is in many cases the whole point...

Interview a Traveler: The Ski-Crazy Humanitarian

Interview a Traveler: The Ski-Crazy Humanitarian

...I work in an environment where people are stuck in one mindset. The monotony of everyday life can suck you in and but also give you the comfort of stability. I want to stimulate my mind and mix things up. My entire senior year of college I saved for my trip to Europe, and everyday I think back to the crazy things I did and the knowledge that I gathered and feel proud. Being young and having a flexible (and seasonal) job is a plus. So spending my money on travel is why it’s there...

The Birth of The Nakavika Project, Part 1

The Birth of The Nakavika Project, Part 1

...L: “I found an amazing flight deal I want to look further into. If the price is right, would you consider dropping the road trip idea and heading to Fiji to live in a village? We could do our own thing there, use our skills to start some effort from scratch, and I know we’re already invited and welcome to be there. I talked to them a week ago.” G: “Wow, Linz, you’re turnin’ the tables on me! This could be such a huge opportunity. Let me think it over…(30 minutes later)...I am completely, 100% behind this idea...

Plummeting Towards Earth

Plummeting Towards Earth

...We landed perfectly, a few steps to a complete standing stop, and I yelled my amazement to all the men at the bottom who hear these exclamations every day. And that was it. I jumped out of a plane. Nuts. Simply nuts...

Reviewing The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009

The Best Womens Travel Writing 2009
The Best Womens Travel Writing 2009

I don't normally buy these sort of books, and thanks to a friendly backpacker in Fiji, I didn't have to. Why don't I buy comprehensive anthologies of my favorite genre? Because it's not enough.

Five pages about a person's trip in Mexico just gets me in the mood; it doesn't take me there. Maybe I've read too many full narratives to now have an intolerance of anything shorter. Maybe I'm missing the point of anthologies - to sample other authors or witness the best of the best.

All I know is I read this on a beach in Fiji, swaying in a hammock under palm fronds and rustling coconuts. I could enjoy any book in that setting. And though I found a few stories lacking the substance, syntax and the snazzy wit I prefer, there were enough great tales between these covers to make the book worth lugging 7,300 miles home. Let me tell about a few of 'em!

Mexican Rain

by Pamela Alma Bass

In a town full of "whispered secrets," love and loss are inevitable.

My book sunning itself
My book sunning itself

Maybe it's my interest in Mexico. Maybe the fact that Pamela made me laugh out loud. But I think one of the main attractions I had to this tale was the perspective of the author and her choice to not describe a place just as everyone can. She took her personal connotations of San Miguel de Allende and illustrated its energy by taking the reader on a journey through her heart palpitations without the plain Jane explanations of where you are and what's going on. She assumes you can figure out the essentials between the lines of her prose.

It may come with the territory of exposing quite a bit of yourself in your writing. Pamela speaks to the reader as though they understand her sarcasm - just like an old friend would. Wouldn't it seem weird to talk about a romantic evening with a studly, foreign man and then hold back in a bubble of formality? I guess that's my interest; I like people who open up and tell it the way they experience it, not the way others expect to hear it.

Big Cats, No Guns

by Laurie McAndish King

In Africa, life is good - when you're not on the menu.

This story was much more about the substance than the voice. It might be the fact that she tells a relatable experience of a bush walk, but I certainly know I chuckled at this line:

'A good way of testing the freshness of dung, is to thrust your hand into the centre of it. If the dung is fresh, it will be warm inside.' Right. Life I'm ever going to employ this methodology. They didn't even provide a chart correlating temperature to time elapsed to distance traveled.

That's silly, Laurie. About as silly as the advice she relayed about walking safaris and that dreaded face-off between quivering biped and monstrously large beast. Standing your ground without a gun in your party sounds like a fool's direction, but that's the rule, so they say. And her character of Maureen with the new kicks and bright pink windbreaker walking around the African bush gave me a great visual. Illustrating her ironic presence there was as ominous as writing in a handgun in the story opener: something had to happen to that woman, especially since she apparently had an untied left shoelace.

Climaxing at a chance seen with dozens of other animals did the real trick. Great experience. Glad you lived to tell the tale, Laurie.

Lost in Jamaica

by Laurie Gough

In Negril, a town founded by hippies, the author explores its hedonistic ways.

Another Laurie! There must be something in the name that excites their travel writing to a level not often touched by most.

So here's the gist. Laurie befriends a local Jamaican woman and clicks with her family life - away from the drug tourists and resort hot tubs that muddy her prior exposure. Unfortunately, she burns her leg on the exhaust pipe of a motorbike and has to leave the authenticity of her experience to seek medical help.

And medicine she gets, albeit from a creepy old lady on the beach. We don't often picture 80 year-old women with wicker baskets to be drug pushers, which is probably why Laurie was caught off guard and couldn't deny the "somewhat pushy" entrepreneur her $2. Laurie ensues with an incredible explanation of her feelings while high as a skyscraper in Dubai. Not everyone has these sorts of travel experiences, nor does everyone necessarily want to, which is why I liked hearing her detail a mindset that frightens my curiosity.

The Bottomline

Open book; don't judge
Open book; don't judge

I could list my honorable mentions or go on giving away some of the best plots, or you could head to your local library and check it out yourself. Again, if I were into reading snippets of exotic life over and over again, I'd totally buy this great anthology, but I think I have a zest for the art of a novel, instead. Although, I'll make the point again that I now know a few more writers I'd be interested thanks to reading this collection.

Travelers' Tales has already published its 2010 edition of the same topic, The Best Women's Travel Writing, and is always accepting submissions for the next editions of their many annual anthologies.

Reviewing Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild

Reviewing Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild

Jon Krakauer is the reason I traveled to India in 2008 to see the Himalayan mountains. Into Thin Air was a personal account of a terrible occurrence on Mount Everest that for some reason led me to adore and venerate the world's ability to form this mountain range. So before I even picked up its predecessor, Into the Wild, I was on Krakauer's side and knew it would be a story deeply connected to my own.

After holding off watching the movie for a year [hoping to read the book first], I finally caved and let tears soak my cheeks as I watched Chris McCandless follow a desire that couldn't be silenced. Since the book came second, I fear the story's impact was compromised, but only by a fraction.

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Reviewing Lonely Planet's Travel Writing Book

Reviewing Lonely Planet's Travel Writing Book

Don George begins by subtly discouraging those who just love to travel from writing about travel for a living. He makes the very necessary statement that travel writing is still writing, and even the most fantastic trip or experience cannot carry itself in a poorly crafted article. For many, travel writing isn't the expected dream job because the majority of a writer's time can be spent fact-checking on location and soaring through cities like a blur, not in the manner in which most people love to travel. And if you couldn't write before the trip, there's not much hope in selling that trip's documentation afterward [without monumental amounts of editing, of course].

Luckily, a longstanding passion of mine is writing (I'd be pretty bummed about now if it weren't). Previously, I leaned on the place to do the talking and not the craft of writing. It's about being a wordsmith and a storyteller, not just a globetrotter with a pen. And from George's explanation of the laborious lifestyle, I realized I'm not opposed to slaving for the work if I continue to reap such happiness from its quality completion.

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