One Dress, Three Weeks, Eight Countries--Zero Baggage
Newly recovered from a quarter-life meltdown, Clara Bensen decided to test her comeback by signing up for an online dating account. She never expected to meet Jeff, a wildly energetic university professor with a reputation for bucking convention.Read more...
One Dress, Three Weeks, Eight Countries--Zero Baggage
Newly recovered from a quarter-life meltdown, Clara Bensen decided to test her comeback by signing up for an online dating account. She never expected to meet Jeff, a wildly energetic university professor with a reputation for bucking convention. They barely know each other's last names when they agree to set out on a risky travel experiment spanning eight countries and three weeks. The catch? No hotel reservations, no plans, and best of all, no baggage.
Clara's story will resonate with adventurers and homebodies alike--it's at once a romance, a travelogue, and a bright modern take on the age-old questions: How do you find the courage to explore beyond your comfort zone? Can you love someone without the need for labels and commitment? Is it possible to truly leave your baggage behind?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-10-26
- Reviewer: Staff
Freelance writer Bensen gives a book-length treatment to an article she wrote for Salon, The Craziest OKCupid Date Ever, detailing her relationship with Texas maverick Jeff and their luggageless 21-day trip through Europe in the spring of 2013. After suffering a quarter-life existential crisis, Bensen decides to dive back into life with gusto. She meets Jeff on a popular dating site, and a month later they purchase tickets to Istanbul. The resulting adventure includes serendipitous couch-surfing hosts, raucous political protests, a dust-up with security at the Parthenon, and the grueling surrealism of a 23-hour bus ride. Bensen exhibits a knack for description and history as she recalls touring the Hagia Sophia, the temple of Apollo, and even Bosnias shelled-out skeleton houses with collapsed roofs and Swiss-cheese walls. Jeff is a bit of a caricature at first, but as their relationship progresses, he evolves from a vessel of energy and New Age platitudes into a sensitive man facing his fears of commitment and vulnerability. If this sounds like a tale of ridiculous millennial whimsey, it is, but Benson is self-aware, frequently acknowledging her privileges; her account of her mental breakdown borders on maudlin, but her willingness to discuss it in detail is admirable. (Jan.)
Into the great unknown
Whether you’re content with armchair travel or prefer a rugged real-life expedition of your own, these accounts of epic journeys by intrepid travelers will give you plenty of room to roam.
If you’re the type who takes a large, packed-to-the-brim suitcase on every trip, you’ll be amazed and enlightened by Clara Bensen’s account of traveling with, literally, No Baggage. Bensen considers herself a quiet introvert, so it’s a surprise when she clicks with her polar opposite, Jeff, a free spirit she meets through an online dating site. Soon after, Jeff invites her on a three-week trip to Europe, with one caveat: She must adopt his unorthodox travel style, which means no hotels, no itineraries and no luggage. Taking flight for Istanbul with only the clothes on her back (and a change of underwear in her purse), Bensen cautiously adjusts to the freedom of wandering unencumbered. “It’s a rare thing to be lost, isn’t it?” she asks Jeff, jolted by the transition from a world in which we always know exactly where we stand. Bensen’s honest and engaging narrative offers fresh insights about why we travel and what we gain when we step outside our comfort zones.
UP THE RIVER
A British veteran who served in Afghanistan, Levison Wood was inspired by 19th-century explorers who sought to locate the source of the fabled Nile River. In 2013, he set out to recreate their journey in reverse, a 4,000-mile trek chronicled in Walking the Nile. This gripping travelogue is no “walk in the woods,” however, and you won’t find amusing Bill Bryson-style asides about bad weather and annoying companions. Starting at a tiny spring in Rwanda and walking through six countries, Wood encounters armed gangs, civil war, secret police and even endures the death (from heat stroke) of a journalist who joined him. Informative and immediate, Walking the Nile is an unvarnished portrait of modern Africa.
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (as Cheryl Strayed does in Wild), was only a warmup for Swiss explorer Sarah Marquis, who had bigger challenges in mind. Starting in 2010, she traveled 10,000 miles alone, on foot, through Mongolia, including the Gobi Desert (which took three tries), China, Siberia, Laos, Thailand and finally (after hitching a ride on a cargo ship) across the Australian continent—twice. In Wild by Nature, a National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2014 recounts her journey with the clear-eyed resolve and keen observational skills that make her a successful solo trekker. An abscessed tooth in the wilds of Mongolia? Marquis follows a preset evacuation plan and heads to Tokyo for treatment, resuming her walk a few weeks later. Throughout her adventure, she relishes the freedom of being a woman alone in the wild.