Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Praise for "Without Reservations"

The beauty of the travel memoir is that it not only captures the essence of a place, but also how the person reacts to it. Alice Steinbach does this brilliantly in her book Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman. Of course the title is what initially drew me to pick up the book, but the voice and the insight are what kept me reading. I must have ear-marked over 20 pages that had funny quotes or interesting observations or travel ideas that truly struck a cord.

The memoir traces the time Steinbach spends in Paris, London, Oxford and various cities in Italy. It discusses the monuments and buildings she visits, the streets she explores, the clothes the buys, the food she guiltlessly enjoys and the many interesting characters she meets along the way. Each chapter draws the reader into Steinbach's internal thoughts, brought on by every place to which she travels. Steinbach participates in typical tourist activities, but what is really fascinating are her musings about her travel adventure to discover herself. Yes, self-discovery and travel, it seems the two often go hand-in-hand. But I found Steinbach's witty comments and deep explorations a refreshing mixture from the typical, cliche travel-the-world-and-find-yourself stories. She is relaxed during her time away, but also concerned with the life she left behind. She is curious about new things, but still feels comfort in the everyday routines. This is how it feels when we travel, especially when we take long breaks from the ordinary. I felt myself relating to every emotion she conveyed, which was probably why I marked so many passages.

Or perhaps I was so enthralled with this memoir because it is exactly the type of book I want to write someday. This is the kind of trip I would love to take sometime in my life, and if I could tell my story as well as her, I would feel incredibly accomplished. So while I work on documenting my trips and getting my work published, I will refer back to Steinbach and her encouraging words about travel, companionship, love, life and every moment in between.

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