Worth Reading: Travel Memoirs

Sunrise Atlantic Ocean

Reaching the Atlantic at Sunrise

People love travel memoirs.  They help us reflect over our journeys, noting what stood out in the places we’ve visited, the people we’ve met and the adventures we’ve experienced. Although few people write a travel memoir with the explicit intention of emulating the Ignatian Examen, the importance of reflection ties the two together. Two former Gonzaga University students have recently written about their post-graduation travel adventures in a light-hearted style.

Scott Hippe’s book, Squeaky Wheels: The Non-Friction Adventure from Sea to Shining Sea, chronicles his bike journey across the United States with two other friends. Hoping to expand his comfort zone and really experience his country, Scott biked for two months from Seattle to Yorktown, VA. His memoir delivers a mix of snappy dialogue, historical tidbits and incisive narrative. Cycling through Yellowstone, Scott gratefully concludes:

There is more out there than routine geyser eruptions. There are a whole lot of experiences out there to be had, so many that doing it all is impossible. If I ever find myself living a life that has already been lived, I am a prodigal son wasting away my inheritance. I might as well stop calling it “living” and refer to it by its true name: decomposing.

Nathan Garberich resists the term, “Travel Memoir” to describe his soon-to-be-published book, preferring instead, “a sort of OK collection of writing with some solid comics” entitled, Never Trust a Boy Scout. With a decidedly more comic tone, Nate describes a promising book about his adventures hiking the Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail, biking from Bolivia to Venezuela and biking across the southern United States. A different friend accompanies him on each journey, but all three were Boy Scouts (watch four minute version here). In this sneak peek, Nate imagines the reception he and his friend would receive from a hypothetical Texan woman once she learned that the two of them were biking across the country:

Navigating the rugged roads of Bolivia

Navigating the rugged roads of Bolivia

 “Y’all are biking across the country?!” she’d say, with a twinkle in her ocean blue eyes, right before tossing her golden blonde locks over her overalls, dirty from working on the family farm, her skin the as tan as the leather bicycle seats she makes in her free time.

 “Well, y’all must come in for supper!” she’d say with a wink. “My 22-year-old sister just got home from Cheer Camp at the University of Texas, and we’re fixing up barbecued ribs, coleslaw, and pecan pie! Daddy should be home any minute now with a keg from one of his microbreweries. Oh, Daddy’s gonna love you boys! I’d bet one of my race horses that he offers you jobs! By golly, I just know he’d love to have two brave, handsome, marriage-worthy young men like you working down at the Beer Tasting Center.”

Unfortunately, reality shatters Nate’s overactive imagination as he realizes that, “no girls (or human beings for that matter) live in the 1000 square miles known as West Texas. But a few female cows gave us a second, seductive look.”

A good travel memoir challenges our priorities, forcing us to ask, “what’s important in our lives?” As Scott and Nate demonstrate in their books, our experiences can always provide an opportunity for reflection as well as some good laughs.

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