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Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone
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Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,402 ratings  ·  110 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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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,402 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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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
Mar 28, 2012 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
Feb 08, 2009 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!
Dec 19, 2008 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
Kathryn Parmeter
May 18, 2014 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.
Melanie Campbell
Jul 26, 2014 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
Mar 16, 2009 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.
Nina Levison
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This book had a nice dreamlike flow that followed the transience of travel and made for an easy read, but Morris was really an unlikeable character. The bits and pieces about Mayan and Aztec culture were interesting and inspired further research on my end, but seemed like afterthought and were largely drowned out by vain, despairing and somewhat boring self-reflections. She witnessed and experienced some really moving things and there was no processing of any of it. She would just write it matte ...more
May 06, 2014 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
Amanda Price
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book at a moment when I was in mourning for another book, with a head full of thoughts I was processing. I was in transition and Mary Morris' book capture this state of transition perfectly. She wanders through Mexico finding the questions she needs to ask, resisting answering a number of them, and attempting to make a relationship with the landscape and people she meets, but never really achieving any depth of connection. Morris was a perfect companion; she asked little of me, she w ...more
It's 2018 and this book has not aged well. There was very little traveling all things considered and I find the undertone of racism and elitism is deeply unpleasant. It's like an ode to poorly executed travel plans by a financially well-off person but with lines like the one about how the Mexicans who came out to the fountains / plazas with their family are often fat and splashing around happily and how she wishes she knows how to be that carefree. (This was literally within the first 50 pages.) ...more
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
A great travel book about one woman's travels through Latin America. She shows you the raw real side of living and traveling in Latin America. No fluffed up sugar coated stuff here. At times through out the book I was thinking to myself I can't believe she just did that she must have a death wish, she is crazy. And other times in the book I could really relate to some of her situations and it touched me way deep down inside. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes to travel.
Aug 14, 2013 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.
Donated to DPL October 2015
Carrie Speaking
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-writing, women
Review from my blog post "4 TRAVEL BOOKS FOR YOUR SUMMER (2017)"

In the 1980s, Morris leaves New York, her life and its ghosts, and ends up in San Miguel, Mexico, near the US border, with a writing grant. The book is about her temporary life there, her trips around Central America and the people she met on the way.

In 2016, I held my copy, standing in a second-hand bookshop in Whitehorse, Yukon. I clenched my teeth, as I felt negative anticipation. Under the title, I could read "Memoirs of a woman
Nov 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
A great travelogue, Something to Declare coverts Mary Morris' travels in Central America in the 80s. It was written soon after that (published in 88) which made me wish I had a copy with a new afterword for a little more perspective (not sure such a thing exists).

In general I liked the book, enjoyed reading about her adventures, but disliked about half of the spiritual stuff and musings on her personal life. I liked the other half, though. It was interesting to read about someone who hated bein
Maya Michel
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I read this book which means that it must have hit a nerve. What I recall was my own memories of travelling through Mexico and Guatemala in the 70s. I remember how her comments brought back poignant memories but where she was focusing on the dirt and the noise, I recalled the beauty and kindness. It was wonderful to read about a place I have fallen in love with written in terms and towns that I had found amusement and grace. So, I guess I loved it but more than that I ...more
Suraj Alva
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
One reader commented that Morris is the most "self-honest" person he knows. And I gotta concur. I've never read any woman author like her. She is on par with the other great travel writer I've read extensively: V.S. Naipaul. The only difference is: She privatizes space--colonizes it for her own personal purposes, connecting it to herstory--whereas he analyzes space to discover mankind's relation to it.

I can almost imagine the Nobel Committee saying of her "...for her personalization of space, h
Jul 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-travel, memoir
I really hoped to enjoy this book, and did give it a chance. It got worse as it went along, and eventually became downright boring ,depressing, and repetitive. No new insights to share , with all the poverty crime and filth as she goes traveling.
Perhaps " Nothing meaningful to declare " should have been the title..
A bit of the history was interesting . It had glimmers of promise at points , but did not deliver.
Cherryls Books
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Morris connects with the reader very early on in the book, she talks about her thoughts, feelings and her life - weaving it through her day to day travel experiences, with characters that we grow to know and understand. I definitely felt like I'd been on a journey with her, and gained fresh insights into life in Mexico.
Jennifer Burton
Jul 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
I read this book because I had recently visited San Miguel de Allende and was interested in reading how others experienced and felt about SMA. Sadly, I read it cover to cover but I couldn’t relate to the author, or her experiences which, for the most part, sounded horrible and left me wondering if there was any joy in her life.
Vanessa Mozayani
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: erin-9-0
Interesting travel log and memoir of a woman who ventured to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua alone in the 80s. Quite remarkable accounts of the landscapes, ruins and people in these parts. I wonder what happened to Lupe and her children.
Julie Joan
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Descriptive bits about the landscape were beautifully written, the "memoir" moments not so much. Both arrogant and ignorant at times.
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Not my favorite travelogue, probably mostly because it was written so long ago (the 80's) and travel has changed to much since.
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! I will admit it is probably not for everyone, not sure if I would recommend it, but I really enjoyed it. Morris's descriptions of her travels can really take you away. Although her experiences were not shy of the fear that comes from traveling (especially as a woman) she draws the reader in with beautiful imagery of each location as well as an entertaining story and personal relationships with locals and tourists. I recently was in Mexico on vacation (there's not much to compare ...more
Jul 18, 2012 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 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and kept asking myself if I would be able or willing to travel alone to the locations Morris writes about. The answer is no. She definitely has more courage than I do, and often puts herself into very dangerous situations. Nevertheless, I admire her for being able to do so. I would definitely recommend this book for the adventure travel enthusiast.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
“Women remember. Our bodies remember. Every part of us remembers that has ever happened. Every touch, every feel, everything is there in our skin, ready to be awakened, revived.” 0 likes
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