Far more than an account of an 8,000 mile motorcycle adventure across the United States, Travels with Harley is a stirring memoir of an Army veteran’s 30-year quest for peace and personal and national identity. Only through service to others, he learns, can Americans of all ages find their identity and step up to national and global citizenship, starting in their own communities, and move the country forward. As the nation struggles to find a pathway to its future, Colonel Holshek’s positive and empowering message on citizenship, service, and social responsibility in and beyond America couldn’t be more timely or needed. To promote national unity and help pass the baton of generational leadership, he has created the National Service Ride, a unique platform to connect youth to service learning, funded entirely through book sales. For more information, please visit www.nationalserviceride.net.
Christopher Holshek, Colonel (retired), U.S. Army Civil Affairs, is a senior civil-military advisor at Narrative Strategies, the NATO ResilientCivilians project, and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, as well as a former Senior Associate at the Project on National Security Reform. His three decades of civil-military experience includes command of the first U.S. Army Civil Affairs battalion to deploy to Iraq, from which he was featured in Tom Rick’s Fiasco, 60 Minutes II, PBS Newshour, and Arte TV. An international consultant on civil-military and peace operations, he is a rare American who served in UN field missions in civilian and military capacities. He writes extensively on peace and security and civil-military topics, and has appeared in Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post and many other publications worldwide. He now lives with his wife, Rosa, in Colombia.
Far more than an account of an 8,000 mile motorcycle adventure across the United States, Travels with Harley is a stirring memoir of an Army veteran's 30-year quest for peace, personal and national identity. Only through service to others, he learns, can Americans of all ages find their identity and step up to national and global citizenship, starting in their own communities, and move the country forward. As the nation struggles to find a pathway to its future, Colonel Holshek's positive and empowering message on citizenship, service, and social responsibility in and beyond America couldn't be more timely or needed. To promote national unity and help pass the baton of generational leadership, he has created the National Service Ride, a unique platform to connect youth to service learning, funded entirely through book sales.
I've changed my rating back and forth between 3 and 4 stars more times in writing this review than in any other I've done. It's definitely better than 60% of the books I read, but I'm not sure it's better than 79% of them. Goodreads, give me 10 stars, and I'd give it a 7.
It is well-written and at times very interesting and engaging. But my enjoyment was hindered by its title and subtitle and cover image. I appreciate the title and its redolence of Steinbeck, but while from Col. Holshek's perspective it was about his search both personal and national it was more about his life in Civil Affairs internationally. It took me a while (but I might be more obtuse than the average Goodreads reader) to discern the difference and warm to the real content of the book.
But once I realized the central content of the book I very much enjoyed reading about a very interesting life and career. The perspectives and experiences are important and not enough a part of the conversations I've had about America's place in the world. I learned a lot about the role of Civil Affairs in our international dealings, and wouldn't have minded even more information on that role throughout the book.
That being said, there are two things I would have suggested be changed were I editing the book:
1. More on the Travels - since that's the first word in the title and the cover image, share more about the experiences encountered along the trip. It really is the mortar to the structure in this case, but it's too thin. 2. Shorten the polemic that is too much of Chapter 13. Many of the points made in the [too lengthy, in my opinion] conclusion were made or at least implied earlier in the book. Reiteration in detail diminishes their power, not reinforces it. A shorter recounting would help inspire the reader to "Get out and ride" as the book suggests with its final enjoinder.
So I settled on a four star because, in spite of those deficiencies, I hope there are more printings and some forthcoming enhancements that result in even more goodreaders. It's worth the read.
"Travels with Harley" was a novel assigned in class. At first I was unsure whether or not I would enjoy the book because I have never been fond of reading. It was difficult to understand Holshek's writing style but after the first chapter it was a little more clear. The way the author shows the importance of citizenship and involvement in a small community is incredible. Holshek conveys how important it is for a person to be involved in their community. It draws the reader in by giving first hand experiences with people around the country showing how similar people are thousands of miles away. This book is a great read and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to make a difference in the community.
I truly enjoyed reading this book. Very inspirational and it delivers strong messages. I believe I will read this book again. I would recommend my friends to read this well written book. I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program. Thanks for sending me this wonderful book.
The book was a very good read. The book shows how involvement in the community can lead to something much bigger. The author uses the great view of how people from the outside look in on the United States. He tell of all the things he sees on his cross country trip and it is remarkable. I would suggest reading it and I would love to read it again.
This engaging book is a mix of autobiography, travelogue, and cultural critique. Holshek is very well-read, and clearly draws on Steinbeck's book Travels with Charley, as well as Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for some of his inspiration.
The text itself follows his journey across America on a Harley motorcycle as a (mostly) post-retirement exercise. During his trip he recounts some of his traveling experiences, while also reflecting on lessons he learned in his military career as well as offering current-day cultural critiques and assessments. One criticism of the book is that it is clear that the author had a very successful and laudable career, but his reminiscences come across sometimes as humble, other times as self-aggrandizing. The travelogue aspect of the book is not a dominant factor of the book. While the travel experience may have been very beneficial to Holshek, my sense is that he uses the travel mostly as a useful frame for his discursions on his experiences in various military roles, problematic aspects of US history, and problems he perceives with our current value systems.
Where the book really shines is the perspective that Holshek shares on facets of US history and his thoughts on some of the ways in which the US is missing the boat with its emphasis on military might as opposed to softer diplomatic engagements. Assessments he makes in these areas are made in a somewhat blunt and matter-of-fact manner, but his knowledge, background and tone lends his criticisms and assessments quite a bit of credence. His perspective comes across as very deeply informed, not only of current events but also of the US- and world-historical background that informs these events and the differing ways that other cultures perceive things differently than the US does. Given that this book comes from a military man, I found his focus on 'softer', more diplomatic strategies to be quite surprising (granted, this shows some of my own prejudices).
This is a very interesting book, and well worth reading.
I'm a little annoyed because this is exactly the trip I wanted to do; a motorcycle trip across America after stepping away from active duty in the military (enter COVID-19, stage left), and he stole my story ;)
Although it turns out Holshek has an eminently unique vantage point for writing a book on American values - as a citizen soldier with experience in the UN and at the liminal edge of foreign policy in America. He has gained invaluable wisdom and insight into what makes America truly great.
His writing style feels quite stiff - he might be writing a War College essay, not a memoir - and it could probably use another edit to better organize thoughts and insights, which are mixed in with unimportant details about the hotel he stays at, for example.
But overall, deserving of 4 stars. I highlighted and took notes, and it gave me language to articulate feelings I've had for a while. A well done effort and a worthy project to cap his years in service.