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Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,191 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Traveling from the highland desert of northern Mexico to the steaming jungles of Honduras, from the seashore of the Caribbean to the exquisite highlands of Guatemala, Mary Morris, a celebrated writer of both fiction and nonfiction, confronts the realities of place, poverty, machismo, and selfhood. As she experiences the rawness and precariousness of life in another culture ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published November 15th 1998 by Picador (first published 1987)
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I hesitantly give this book 3 stars, because I would really like to give it both 1 star and 4/5 stars. I alternately loved and hated it. Morris is at her best describing what she observes during her travels: the colors, smells, odd but telling details, and the scenery. She is able to evoke the place on the page, which is a rare feat even in travel writing. She doesn't shy away from grime or the grotesque. However, the "memoir" parts of the book, in which she reflects on her character and on her ...more
Fair warning: I did not finish this book.

And yet, I'm giving it a one star rating.

Here's why:

"Nothing to declare" is a book about a woman moving to Mexico to write. Although I don't think it is explicitly mentioned, the subtitle "Memoirs of a woman traveling alone" as well as the first person narrator strongly imply that the woman Morris is writing about is Morris herself. At least I had no reason to assume otherwise.

Apart from the fact that moving to another country is not traveling (to me - a
A memoir of an American woman in her thirties who uses a writing grant to live in Mexico and travel Central America in the 1980s. It's an interesting account, but I also felt it difficult to connect with the author. I couldn't quite relate to her lifestyle, nor to the many risks she takes. She seems to drift, she forms fleeting bonds with strangers, most of whom she doesn't particularly like. The author is also a novelist, and at times she takes some obvious creative liberties, leaving me wonder ...more
Dec 19, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: travel enthusiasts, women in crisis, Mexi-philes
I had to read this one back in college for a women's lit class. We spent the semester focusing on memoir/travel writers, and this was definitely a stand out. Mary Morris is a participator, not simply an observer. She unveils the true gritty, poignant and complicated lives of the inhabitants of San Miguel, Mexico, as she attempts to come to grips with her own personal demons and disappointments. In the course of her stay, she re-discovers her identity and personal strength. I absolutely loved Mor ...more
Feb 08, 2009 Alissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book. Having lived in rural Mexico I was captivated and drawn into Morris's world immediately. But she is such a gifted story teller that you do not need any knowledge of Mexico to be drawn in. You can relate to her loneliness and isolation, along with her sense of adventure, trying to do more than just scratch the surface of this new world. This is probably in my top five of all travel narratives I have read. Don't miss this one!
Katie  Kurtz
May 03, 2008 Katie Kurtz rated it really liked it
I read this book for the first time a number of years ago. I can't tell you if that number is three or ten but I remember it sparked an interest then in packing up and moving to Mexico. Morris got herself in some hairball situations that were only possible during the eighties in Central America and it is amazing that she survived all that she did. After having traveled alone a lot this past year, my travels seem so tame in comparison.

I would be happy to mail this book to a woman who needs a lit
Mar 16, 2009 Laurab rated it really liked it
I read this book while travelling in Mexico this last December, and it was the perfect travel companion: insightful, introspective, at times funny and often profound.
May 18, 2014 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Very strong first-person narrative of a woman traveling and living in Mexico in times when this was not so common. Beautiful.
May 19, 2014 Linda rated it liked it
I was excited when I realized that this author had lived and written in San Miguel; thus, I thought it would be filled with stories of the wonderful, quirky, adventuresome, warm, curious, artistic people, both Mexicans and ex-pats, who live and work in this part of Mexico. , Ms Morris shared my love of the beauty of this semi-desert mountainous terrain with it's other-worldly light. But where were all the wonderful characters I was expecting? Ms Morris makes friends with her neighbour, an extrem ...more
Mar 02, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I think I want to travel the world. I’ve always felt like a bit (okay, a lot) of a homebody, but there may actually be some wanderlust in my little hermit heart. The way Morris describes the vast Mexican desert and the ferocious jungles of South America makes my heart ache for wild spaces and beautiful adventure.

Nothing to Declare paints a picture of a woman finding herself as she explores the world. She moves in and out of relationship with land and with people in the most incredible
Donated to DPL October 2015
Aug 17, 2013 Abby rated it really liked it
Really fun read. I was hoping to be inspired to travel in Mexico and Central America. Mexico, a bit, but Morris writes of Central America in the late 1970's early 1980's - an interesting time to be traveling. Her run-in with a revolutionary subcomandante was particularly riveting. Would like to read some of her fiction now.
Steve Hayden
May 29, 2016 Steve Hayden rated it liked it
This was a good book about travels and settling down, to some extent, in a quaint little town in Central Mexico. some of the friends and stories of her friends were out of the ordinary and I found it hard to want to relate to her travels. I typically would like to want to be doing the things that the book is about but these i would be trying to avoid. There were some good times to be had though. When she settles into her town she developes a relationship with a local family which is charming. Th ...more
Melanie Campbell
Jun 19, 2015 Melanie Campbell rated it liked it
It's pretty standard, straightforward, anecdotal memoir stuff. A quick, fun read, especially if you have any interest in mesoamerican native history. The story (and the locations she visits) has a certain timelessness to it. Apart from some specific Nicaraguan historical moments she encounters, it could be taking place at virtually any time. Time in impoverished places moves very slowly.

Highlight: she did capture well the feeling that travel can be transcendent, drug-like, and that even terrify
Jul 18, 2012 scc101 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any woman who wants to travel solo
Shelves: travel, reviewed, 2012
She spends some time living in Mexico but visits some other countries like Guatemala. It was interesting to read about her experiences living and traveling in different places. This also took place in the 1980s, when I'm guessing women moving overseas alone and then traveling alone wasn't as common as it is today. She shares her experiences with her neighbors and with men, and also shares stories of political unrest in some places that she visits. I love travel and reading about a w
Feb 20, 2014 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes to travel
Shelves: travel
I really enjoyed this travel novel of going through Mexico. Mary Morris paints a colorful picture of Mexico and the culture there. Along the way she encounters friends, lovers and insects of the jungle kind. The book was a real eye opener for me. There were times I could not put it down as I was so wrapped up in her story. She had a way of drawing you in so that you felt like you were right there with her. I was sad when it ended but hopfully there will be more to come.
Danielle Bauter
Sep 22, 2015 Danielle Bauter rated it it was amazing
The idea of this book sounded like exactly what I was looking for... a memoir of a woman traveling alone through Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras during the 1980s, after fearlessly deciding to move to San Miguel de Allende. And fearless doesn't even begin to describe this woman, but her insights as both a woman and a solo traveler connected with me in a way that I wasn't expecting. Mary Morris has this amazing ability to describe the setting in a such a way that you feel like you are there, exper ...more
Ashley Lauren
I read this book while on study abraod in Barcelona, Spain - which I felt was an absurdly appropraite time in my life to be doing so. However, I wasn't quite able to relate to Mary as I thought I would be able to as very little of my adventure comes close to hers. I came on a program, went to a school, am living in a normal-class society. What Mary did is something I could never do - live by myself in poverty, travel to unknown stretches of the earth with diseases, danger, and more. However, I a ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Karencita rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jean Grant
Oct 28, 2014 Jean Grant rated it it was amazing
I loved this travel book as it felt so authentic, and yet at the same time, rather strange, the strangeness of those bold enough to declare their sensations and thoughts even when these are odd and unconventional. And the style is gripping and clear, with lots of sensory images so you feel "right there."
A really good autobiographical story with some well developed characters....some were not. Kind of a sad story that shows how empty and meaningless most human relationships are. Beautiful detailed descriptions of living in Mexico. A very brave woman....maybe a bit foolish as we all were in our youth.
Jun 01, 2016 Michelle rated it liked it
I liked the stories of living in San Miguel and her travels through Central America. I was less thrilled about the personal musings about ghosts and gods. Sometimes I got lost when she spoke of those things. However, I still liked reading this book though I could only give it 3 stars.
Mar 07, 2009 Fran rated it really liked it
A very good book from start to finish. It was one of those that I wished was longer so I could keep reading it! The author goes to live in Mexico and using that as a base travels around Central America by herself. I enjoyed hearing about her life in Mexico the most, rather than her time on the road. Her relationship with a local woman, Lupe, and her children was particularly moving. Along with beautiful prose, the author's insightful observations into the people, relationships, and landscapes sh ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Jocelyn rated it really liked it
A little melodramatic sometimes (reminded me of how I write when I get melodramatic), but overall, a great blend of travel and female journey. Read it while feeling in decisive and in need of direction of my own personal journey and found it immensely soothing, helpful and empowering.
Dec 18, 2014 Lena rated it it was ok
Everything is surface-deep in this book. The author constantly evades the details about her own life and doesn't provide enough information about the countries she's visiting, so the book is neither about the woman, nor about traveling, really. Doesn't seem like the author got to know herself during the journey either, because she keeps saying how far she's come and grown/changed as a person, yet keeps doing things that are completely idiotic and prove that she hasn't really grown or change at a ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Ardra rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
This book was passed on to me by my cousin Jessica. Loved reading about the author's travels, brief immersions in Latin America, mostly transient relationships with locals and other travelers (some go deeper), and one of my favorite things, the descriptions of the food. The author seems surprisingly naïve at times, but may be purposefully characterizing herself in this way. She brags a bit that she seems to have an instinct or luckiness about her because no serious harm has ever come her way. Bu ...more
Aug 26, 2015 Carmel rated it liked it
I am disappointed that I have to give this book 3 stars. I really, really wanted to like it. A travelogue! About Mexico! By a woman! Basically my dream book.
But Morris herself ruins it. She is conceited and very difficult to like. I wanted to know more about Mexico and less about her search for love and/or companionship.
Case in point (mild spoiler): there is a scene where her neighbor friend's daughter spills bloody diarrhea in the kitchen and Morris' response, while concerned for the girl, is
Jan 01, 2013 Pat rated it it was ok
This was more of an inner-awareness travel book than a real travel memorir, and as such, Ii was disappointed. Morris just glosses over Mayan sites (all of which I have been to) she vistis, with NO description of them, just her navel-gazing thoughts while wandering around them. I am an independent female traveler, and found her a very poor role model for women considering doing so. I did not appreciate the incredibly stupid and dangerous situations she blithely stumbles into. Her realtionship wit ...more
Jul 08, 2010 Meg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book thirty or more years ago and recently found it in the library again, forgetting that I had read it once before. It resonated just as powerfully 30 years later. Difficult to categorize, and beautifully written, it's both a travel book, a memoir, and simply a great series of short stories against the backdrop of Mexico's mysteries -- and it's also strapped to the back of its underbelly. The good, the bad, the ugly... seen close up through the eyes of a passionate, young woman. (An ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Jeannette rated it it was ok
Rather superficial, full of angst and vaguely expressed reasons for travel. Did she go to places simply to write a book about it? She added bits and histories here and there that sounded artificial, as though looking it all up later in order to pad out the story. The best bit is the relationship with Lupe and all the children but even this lacks depth, as though Lupe is the author's best bet for a real character. Alejandro doesnt come across or any of the other infatuations. I was left with the ...more
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I was born in Chicago and, though I have lived in New York for many years, my roots are still in the Midwest and many of my stories are set there. As a writer my closest influences are Willa Cather and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I travel as much as I can and travel fuels everything I do. When I travel, I keep extensive journals which are handwritten and include watercolors, collage as well as text. All ...more
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