Anyone who has traveled alone knows how soul-searching it can be. And traveling as a woman alone in places such as Costa Rica can be very soulsearching, as this reviewer knows firsthand.
So, reading a collection of tales from other women who have gone it alone before and are honest about what they encountered inspires a sigh of relief.
: Women Travel the World Solo” strings together the stories of 23 women who struck out on their own in destinations around the world. Their short diary entries shed insight into inspiring and humbling experiences to which almost all travelers can relate. It’s easy to recognize their feelings of isolation, their roads to confidence and their triumphs in navigating
Third World sidewalks.
One contributor, Michele Peterson, sums up that breathlessness upon taking the first step into the unknown with a description of her panic attack mid-flight to Central America: “When sages say ‘Jump and the bridge will appear,’ they don’t mention the other bridges burned or that moment in midair.” It’s also comforting to hear her echo familiar feelings of vulnerability when she writes that “a solo woman in a Latino country stands out at the best of times” and describes the epitome of loneliness as “suffering through the hotel mariachi band’s endless renditions of ‘Hotel California.’”
An eclectic range of tales keeps the book fresh throughout, with submissions from some women who set out looking for their “soaring spirit” and others who arrive clutching their “Spanish-English dictionary like a Bible.” And the author’s varying motivations steer you into some unfamiliar territory.
Jennifer is escaping to Nicaragua from a menial job and a smothering partner; Alexia and Marisa are college girls let loose in France, chasing a romanticized notion of adventure; Lara is driven to Argentina with a passion for tango; and Alice is following the lyrics of her favorite song, “You Belong to Me,” to the pyramids of Egypt. The kaleidoscope of personalities that come through in the book is paralleled by the weird and wonderful places the women choose to take you – both physically and emotionally.
While the short-story format in this little gem allows readers to delve into the worlds of many women, it is also where the book can let the reader down at times. Because the stories are only brief windows into the writers’ travels, the reader fails to connect wholly with the authors and their perspectives, jumping quickly from one viewpoint to the next and often finishing abruptly.
But perhaps this is also part of the book’s charm. After all, isn’t that what travel is all about – a series of fleeting moments in which we peer into someone else’s world?
: Women Travel the World Solo,” edited by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick and Christina Henry de Tessan, is available through online booksellers such as www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com for about $15.95.