The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen,...moreThe Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen, who presented me with it for Christmas. She gave it a strong recommendation, and she very obviously learned a valuable lesson that our grandmother instilled in us at a very young age: Books are meant to be loved and shared. I'm fairly certain, now that I've had this book in my possession, that it once belonged to my grandmother. Thank you, Kathleen!
In short, The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey has earned its place amongst my growing list of favorite travelogues. It's written by a Canadian woman named Diane Stuemer from Ottawa, Canada. In September 1997, after a year of preparation, Diane embarked on a four-year journey around the world with her husband and three young sons on a 42-foot yacht called Northern Magic. This is a classic tale of adventure and travel-lust. With no sailing skills to speak of, Diane and her husband Herbert navigated through horrific storms, a terrifying waterspout in Indonesia, pirate-filled waters and an epic fight against the North Atlantic sea. They also grew immeasurably as a family and as individuals.
The Stuemers were deeply touched by their adventures, and they undertook a number of projects to 'give back' to some of the incredible individuals who helped them along their journey. In Kilifi, Kenya, they started the Boniface and Hamisi Educational Project, which aims to provide tuition fees for students, and to help establish small businesses to provide additional income to poor families. Additionally, their efforts to help endangered primates in Borneo are still going strong today.
Written by a Canadian from my old stomping grounds no less, there was much that I could identify with in The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey. I've been to many of the places that the Stuemers visited, and it was a fun and engaging read to be able to relive those experiences right along with them. All in all, a fantastic read and one that I highly recommend!
This is not your average travel novel by any means. It's more a travelogue of finding ideas about happiness through the ten countries that Weiner trav...moreThis is not your average travel novel by any means. It's more a travelogue of finding ideas about happiness through the ten countries that Weiner travels through. At each stop, he learns something different about how people perceive happiness. And while it may be true that some places are happier than others, Weiner strives to show the reader that its where we are that effects who we are and how happy we are
Weiner begins his journey in the Netherlands, where he checks happiness facts at the World Database of Happiness and learns how countries are ranked in happiness. The Bhutanese teach him that our personal achievements and failures are insignificant, and that true happiness can be found by being a person who works for the greater good of someone else, and in Qatar, he learns that happiness is equated with wealth. The Thais teach him the simple concept of mai pen lai, which basically means to just let things go, and in India he visits gurus and learns that many people seek their happiness through spirituality.
I have a healthy respect for a journalist that can write a tongue in cheek and humorous account of his travels by visiting happy places in the world. Weiner's writing style is a comfortable blend of fact and observation, and while I didn't absolutely love the book, it certainly was an eye opening look at how cultures view happiness around the world.
Weiner sums up his journey by quoting Henry Miller - “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”.
In other words, it's not the places that he visited that made him happy, but the journeys that he took to get there.
A collection of travel essays written by a group of male travel authors. I guess women had nothing important to offer this year. I found a lot of thes...moreA collection of travel essays written by a group of male travel authors. I guess women had nothing important to offer this year. I found a lot of these essays hit and miss, as the essays weren't traditional travel narratives by any means. Nevertheless, there were some key pieces that stand out in my mind. My favorites were:
Henry Shukman's Chernobyl, My Primeval, Teeming, Irradiated Eden - A rich tale of a modern-day Chernobyl and its decline into an ancient garden of oddities.
Elliot D. Woods Garbage City - The story of a group of people called the Zabbaleens, who have worked as Cairo's informal garbage collectors for the past 70 to 80 years. They support themselves by going from door to door to collect trash for no charge. They recycle up to 80 percent of what they collect by using their pigs to eat all the organic trash. Everything else is reused and recycled.
Robin Kirk's City of Walls - A terrific read on Northern Ireland and the IRA. I read this essay out loud to my husband while we were road-tripping and we were both fascinated with the history behind the piece.
Pico Iyer's Maximum India - Exloring Varanasi, the City of the Dead, in India. Located on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation.
Luke Dittrich's Walking the Border - A hike along the US-Mexican border. What a great idea for a story!
After losing her mother at 22 years of age, Cheryl falls apart and loses everything important to her. Her family breaks apart from the stress of her m...moreAfter losing her mother at 22 years of age, Cheryl falls apart and loses everything important to her. Her family breaks apart from the stress of her mother's illness, she destroys her marriage, and she falls into a deep well of depression, sexual proclivities, and hard-core drug use.
Cheryl flounders in life for four years before she decides to embark on a personal pilgrimage: She intends to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon, and on to Washington State. Never mind that she doesn't have any experience as a long-distance hiker, nor does she know much in the way of outdoor survivalist skills.
Her first week on the trail almost defeats her. She can barely lift her pack, her hiking boots have ripped her feet to shreds, and she is terrified of everything. As she walks on though, something special starts to happen. She starts to enjoy the feeling of being on her own in nature, she meets some amazing individuals along the way, and she slowly starts to pick up the pieces of her life.
Cheryl isn't a very likable person when we first meet her at the beginning of her memoir, but by the end of her journey, it is evident that she is metamorphosing from a girl into woman of astounding strength and beauty. Her story is raw, honest, and at times, funny. This is the stunning memoir of a young woman that tackles a journey of mythical proportions against all odds, and who emerges from her journey stronger, healthier, and better than ever. (less)