Monday, June 21, 2010
Jamie takes on 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World
Book Title/Author: 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the Word by John Higham
Publisher/Year Published: Alyson Books 2009
How my grubby hands got a hold of this book: I won this via a giveaway on Goodreads.
Why I read this book: If I'm not traveling myself, I won't pass up a chance to live vicariously through others whilst they are having a journey of a lifetime.
Rating: 5 stars--honestly one of the best travel memoirs I've read. I've loved others but always found them to drag in certain places but this one never did for me.
One thing you should probably know about me before I proceed with my review. I suffer from wanderlust, the travel bug, or whatever name you feel compelled to call it. If I could explore the world for the rest of my life, I'd be a happy camper. That being said, you can imagine how giddy I was when this book showed up in my mailbox. I immediately got the goosebumps like I do before I travel caused by that feeling of exploring the unknown and the thrill that there may be an adventure in your immediate future.
I started this book and within a page or so I already had one question. Can I join this family? I mean, for real, this family is kickass. They spend 10 years meticulously planning and saving up for this "World-the-Round trip" (and yes, that's World the Round) in which they will travel around the world for 52 weeks with their two children that are 8 and 11. That would be enough to make most parents break out in a sweat and bring them to their knees with anxiety. And did I mention that for a good chunk of this time they will be cycling via tandem bikes from London to Istanbul with children and luggage in tow?
This decently thick travelogue is set up like an itinerary with excerpts of the family's personal journal entries placed in various parts of the stories. There are also added goodies that were included. The book is set up so that at different points you will come to a place where you an go on to Google Earth to visually be a part of their trip. You'll see pictures, videos, and additional text. I found myself checking out a few of them (and will probably check out more at some point) but found it a little distracting while reading to stop and get on my computer. And the likelihood of someone reading this all in front of a computer is pretty slim. Really cool feature to the book but the novelty wears off after awhile.
Anyways, this book is exceptional. I mean it. The Higham family adventure is one of the best vacations I've had from the comfort of my plush little chair. John Higham carefully creates a scrapbooks of sorts as he balances recounting the sights and the scenery (and some interesting facts along the way!) with the family's personal thoughts and experiences as they face the unknown and explore some of the most beautiful places in the world. He touches delicately on the frustrations and annoyances in traveling with one's family (such as how two adults can have alone time??) and shares the joys of experiencing the world and growing together as a family. Alot of travelogues I've read drag in places but he really knows when not to linger on one country for too long and how to balance reflection, descriptions of people and scenery, and insights on history and culture.
Whether he is describing eating ham sandwiches for months, the challenge of "luggage Tetris," or homeschooling kids on the road--be prepared to experience the good humor that the family maintains throughout. I'm not sure I could find the humor in French campgrounds with no toilet paper or being stranded in remote places. But somehow this family is able to face defeat, give it a swift blow to the groin and keep on pedaling through some of the biggest hurdles and trials that one could face whilst traveling.
The best part about this book, for me, is that this family seems to be navigating by the same principle of travel that I believe in. Traveling is so much more than snapping photographs in front of historic sites and staying in posh hotels. True, those are all elements that can make a great trip, but traveling is really about the rich experiences with other cultures and viewing the world as one gigantic classroom. It's, as John Higham points out, "about discovering how people all over the world are similar, yet different in profoundly subtle ways, and how because of those very differences we were always able to find something to eat, something to wear, and somewhere to sleep."
It helps you to realize that at the end of the day "humankind in all its wonderful weirdness is the same all over the planet."
Thanks for stopping by if you are here from the Radiant Reviews meme!