It all begins with a stupid question:
Are you a Global Vagabond?
No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.
Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.
But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.
Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.
I found this book really, really conflicting.
On one end, it truly captured the essence of travel. I felt like I was backpacking with Bria and Rowan. There was so much vivid detail that I yearned to experience and live in the world in which they had immersed themselves. The attention to detail was painstakingly accurate. I’ve visited over 100 cities, and I still felt the desire for wanderlove. I’m young, but I never felt like the possibilities in the world were endless like that before.
On the other hand, Bria was just so angsty. There were moments of enlightenment — how people actually lived their whole lives in “dangerous” parts, when first-world travellers feared stepping foot in their homes. And then those moments were nullified by her entitled antics and issues. I couldn’t really sympathize about Toby, either. From how traumatized she acted, I thought he violated her or physically abused her. I suppose they had psychological warfare, but there are always critics. I hoped she would have learned to let it go or grow a tougher skin.
There were also times when Bria was just so CLUELESS. I couldn’t believe she was so perceptive as an artist, yet was so naive about the world around her (or otherwise hid unpredictable truths under her assumptions). She discriminated against summer breakpackers, and never accepted them. In fact, she considered Lobsterfest to be a smashing mistake — as if having fun with her roommates was such a horrible thing. At the end of the day, the good people in the story were painted as great, and the bad people were left bad. It was unrealistic. And many things were unresolved — Bria mentioned her regret for ignoring Reese and Olivia. But at the end, she said she would later go and yell at them for leaving her. She was the one who acted as an ungrateful friend and ostracized them for Toby. That was a minuscule part of the story, but I still finished the book feeling like Bria had a lot to learn and hadn’t really overcome her hangups. I don’t feel like she found the peace-of-mind she looked for on her journey. Instead, she found another person to depend on, which could easily be as destructive as her time with Toby if she let it be that way.
Then again, I also finished the book with a deep nostalgia for places I had never unearthed on my travels. So I’ll give it that.
- The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – Jennifer E. Smith (uh, travel)
- Just One Day – Gayle Forman