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Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  9,121 ratings  ·  802 reviews
"In many ways, I was an independent woman," writes Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Alice Steinbach. “For years I’d made my own choices, paid my own bills, shoveled my own snow.” But somehow she had become dependent in quite another way. “I had fallen into the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me.” But who was she awa ...more
Paperback, 295 pages
Published March 12th 2002 by Random House Trade (first published 2000)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,121 ratings  ·  802 reviews


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Candice
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ellen
I loved this book! Reading it was like sitting at a table across from the author with a pot of tea between us. Parts of it brought tears to my eyes. This woman has a zest for life and an ability to make friends wherever she goes. I envy her! She falls in love in Paris, meets a bride-to-be in Milan, and learns ballroom dancing in Oxford. What an adventure! What a story!
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Those Who Enjoy Hallmark Card Writing
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List - Travel
I picked up this book because it was recommended on The Ultimate Reading List. The back cover called Steinback a "Pulitzer Prize-Winning" journalist, so I anticipated something special. Unfortunately, the author inspired the snarky in me right from the introduction. She said she decided to travel because she had dropped into "the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people." Oh, so this was going to be one of those "find myself" books, was it? I'm rather suspicious of that kin ...more
Carol
Satisfied. That's how I felt after finishing Without Reservations: The Travels of An Independent Woman. by Alice Steinbach. This book has been on my travel book shelf for ages. Every time I thought I'd read it I'd pass it on by. Originally I thought I'd read it for the travel aspect. Now as I get ready to retire it seemed just the right time to read Steinbach's take on the journey of a lifetime; an exploration of self discovery.

Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist considered herself a
...more
Agreenhouse
Sep 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Now that summer is officially over, and I spend most of my waking hours sequestered in a classroom, I seek out travel books so that at least my mind can pretend it is somewhere else. Usually, I am attracted to exotic travel tales, so at first I was not that impressed that Alice Steinbach chose to spend her six months abroad in western Europe. I could not imagine what exciting adventures she could get into in England, France, and Italy, but as I read on Alice explained that the point of her trip ...more
Gayle
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
The topics of the book-traveling through parts of Europe, and becoming independent as a mature woman-were interesting to me, but I was disappointed in the structure and flow of writing in this book. The story was told in an uneven fashion, with lingering descriptions of seemingly minor incidents, and quick summations of major travel events. The writing often seemed disjointedl ike a list of events, or quick notes on a postcard (which is a device she uses to begin each chapter). Toward the end o ...more
Kate
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
This was kind of like listening to a friend tell about her trip. You really want to hear about it, you really do, but then she just keeps going on and on about the little details that don't really matter to anyone but her. At one point, it sounded like bragging. I would have enjoyed more about the people and less about the little things she did, like shoe shopping. She didn't even bring back the relevance of buying the shoes. This was a book that I couldn't wait to end.
Caroline
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
I think I'm too cynical for books like this. I think I like the idea of them more than I like the reality. The basic premise - middle-aged divorced mother of two suffering from empty-nest-syndrome drops out of her life to travel around Europe alone and 'find herself' - is so overdone, so clichéd, that I almost found myself rolling my eyes on every page.

I found it an enjoyable enough read, don't get me wrong - it's always entertaining to see familiar places through others' eyes, and Steinbach is
...more
Wystan
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All women!
Recommended to Wystan by: Ronnie Schwam
I LOVED the comments that Alice Steinbach made during her travels. So many astute observations that I found myself nodding in agreement with.

An excellent book to inspire the soul with. As I told the friend that I passed Without Reservations on to, this book retaught me that we are not defined by where we come from, what we do, or the roles we have come to fulfill: we simply are who we are. And that's just how it should be.

"Dangerous": Made me want to sit in a cafe and write in my journal all day
...more
Tricia
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was a very easy read - she writes simply and the chapters are short. If you have ever traveled to Paris or Italy, you'll like her descriptions and how she connected differently to each city/area. Also, it is not just a travel book, but a book about self-discovery at an older age.

A nice bonus: the author offers a great idea for how to keep a diary/document your travels: she write & mails postcards home to herself. What a wonderful idea!

Hope some of you pick thi
...more
Rebecca
In 1993 Steinbach, then in her fifties, took a sabbatical from her job as a Baltimore Sun journalist to travel for nine months straight in Paris, England and Italy. As a divorcee with two grown sons, she no longer felt shackled to her Maryland home and wanted to see if she could recover a more spontaneous and adventurous version of herself and not be defined exclusively by her career.

Her innate curiosity and experience as a reporter helped her to quickly form relationships with other English-spe
...more
Traczy555
Apr 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
The title is the first problem with this book. The author has reservations in almost all of her destinations. I imagined a book about a woman with a backpack and train pass with no specific timeline...wrong. The second problem is that she never pulls the reader in. Steinbach writes as though she were an observer in the experiences, not a participant. It left me feeling cold and lonely...It just wasn't good travel writing. What a disappointment.[return][return]It is possible my experience reading ...more
Krystyn
Aug 07, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
I'm giving up on this book - it just didn't keep me interested. It's hard for me not to just finish it as I hate leaving a book before the end, but I just can't do it.
Elizabeth
Apr 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
I wish I could give this something stronger than a "didn't like it." This book was terrible - the writing and the story are treacly and shallow.
Lesa
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have itchy feet. I'm ready to pack and head somewhere. Alice Steinbach's Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman entices me to travel to Paris or Ireland or Lisbon, Portugal, the places that beckon to me. If you're an armchair traveler, Steinbach may encourage you to pack as well.

In 1993, Steinbach was a reporter with the Baltimore Sun. She was a single mom, but now her sons were grown, and she was wondering who she was. Steinbach identified herself as a mother and a reporter
...more
Pamela Pickering
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ann, Susan, Mom, Valerie
"Dear Alice,
Each morning I am awakened by the sound of a tinkling bell. A cheerful sound, it reminds me of the bells that shopkeepers attach to their doors at Christmastime. In this case, the bell marks the opening of the hotel door. From my room, which is just off the winding staircase, I can hear it clearly. It reminds me of the bell that calls to worship the novice embarking on a new life. In a way I too am a novice, leaving, temporarily, one life for another.
Love, Alice"


At first I was a li
...more
Tisha
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Upon turning the first pages of this book, I note the contents. I am planning a trip to Europe in the spring and I notice Steinbach's travels are Paris, London, Oxford, and Italy. I'm excited because these are the EXACT locations I plan to travel to. Paris (not all of France), London (not all of England) and Italy, just as she's named; the entire country. Hmmm....quite interesting; I'm was immediately intrigued.

This book did not disappoint. Alice takes a leave from work and her busy life to tra
...more
Arlene
Sep 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Arlene by: book club
This book seemed bland. I wondered how it got published, versus more deserving books, but I assume the author, a journalist, had a built-in audience. She tells some of WHAT happened, in summary (she gets ill and is helped by people, she has an affair) but she doesn't provide much detail of HOW it happened. The reader doesn't experience it.
Patty
How many of us fall into patterns that we become dependent on? We do the same things with the same people because that is how we have always lived our life. I believe it takes effort and independence to change this inclination to be who we have always been.

Alice Steinbach has the chutzpah to make changes to her life. She decides to put her independence to the test. I admire her for that. To journey by yourself to Europe without a complete itinerary, seems difficult to me. Steinbach goes to Paris
...more
Ellen
Jul 17, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Although the writing was sometimes over-sentimental and the author's insights about independence and traveling alone were not particularly surprising, I really enjoyed this book. I liked reading about all of the small details of the author's day, especially her delicious breakfasts with hot coffee and rolls and fruit, spent enjoying beautiful weather and people-watching. Just the record of those insignificant moments is so evocative of the feeling you get when eating a leisurely breakfast on a d ...more
Cecilia
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: travelers
Shelves: favorites
Go on a trip through Europe without leaving your home with famed journalist Steinbach in this wonderful travel memoir. Steinbach does a fabulous job of not only setting the visual scenes of each locale, but also adding her own personal sensibility to each page. She did all of the traveling she talks about in this book all on her own so the stories are, in addition to being about European ways and customs, about the life of the single wanderer. Since this book is more about the author and less ab ...more
Natasha
Jun 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Steinbach put aside her job as a writer for the Baltimore Sun to travel in Europe with no agenda other than to rediscover who she was as a woman. She had been a wife, a mother, and a writer, but she felt as if she had somehow lost who she was to herself. Having traveled to many of the locations that she went, I found myself reminiscing about my own vacations. I really loved the way that she wrote as well.
Stacy
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, slice-of-life
I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. It was available at my local library and looked like a easy relaxing read.

What I was surprised to find, was that Steinbach’s introspection throughout her travels were often smart and deeply nostalgic—the kind of wisdom that perhaps can only be thoroughly appreciated after age and experience has settled deep in your bones.

Her reflections of motherhood long past are full of depth—she writes about the measurement of time for a young mother is qu
...more
Jessi
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this because I enjoyed "Adventures of a curious woman" so much, and this one came first. You can tell how this one is the precursor -- the warm up journey, a bit more loose and rambling than the precisely scheduled "Adventures"...I had a strange reaction to this book, as the author is in her 50's and is just now taking the time to travel europe on her own, learn about herself outside the context of her fast-paced career (as a pulitzer prize winning journalist) -- as she talks about Paris, ...more
Lize
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, journeywomen
This one all but leapt into my arms as I walked through the 900 section of the library on a gloomy February day. "You need me!" it said. Did I ever.

I had really enjoyed Ms. Steinbach's "Educating Alice" a few years ago, and this was equally delightful--an account of her year away from her Baltimore journalist job spent in Paris, London, Oxford, and Italy. I've long thought Ms. Steinbach and I would get along famously. We travel much the same way: architectural marvels and museums, yes, but also
...more
Leah
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Well, here we go with more travel writing. This was one of those books that inspired me with the old idea of picking up my life and completely changing everything by going to some exotic place and starting over. Alice Steinbach is a Pulitzer winning journalist who picked up her life for a year and went to Europe to reconnect with herself. She started out in Paris, went to London, Oxford, and Italy, and her self discovery observations had me dog-earring every other page so I could add them to my ...more
Debbie Petersen
Jul 15, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I looked forward to picking it up from the nightstand each evening. It is not the type of book to keep you up all night, unable to put it down; it is more like one that gently lulls you to sleep. I loved the postcard idea, and oddly enough did the same thing myself this year while in Spain. The card was lost and never arrived. This just means I need to go back and write more of them. :-)

I enjoyed her observations and gentle musings. The only reason I was
...more
Karen
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: travelers, women, anyone who likes memoirs.
I received this book as a graduation gift, and I saved it to read when I was traveling. This turned out to be a good approach, because Steinbach's topic is a set of travels in Europe. I lucked out by traveling to a couple of her desinations without planning to, which added to the fun. I loved her literate and reflective style, which was interesting without being self-indulgent. There aren't any roller coaster highs and lows here, but there are some fun stories and observations. I found it refres ...more
Mark
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-nonfiction
I wish I had met reporter, writer, and traveler Alice Steinbach. Or rather, I wish I had known her, for she sounds like a deeply interesting and fascinating woman. In the early 90s, Steinbach was an established reporter with a twice-weekly column in the Baltimore Sun, a single mother of two college-graduate sons, and a successful, independent woman whose life trajectory seemed defined, secure, and predictable.

But a restlessness had her questioning who she really was beyond how others defined her
...more
Victoria Miller
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most elegant and eloquent books I've ever read. And the book, itself, is beautiful. The pages are like fine linen to the touch; each chapter begins with a postcard from the author to herself (a unique sort of travel diary, making certain of lovely memories), and scattered throughout are colorful little postage stamps. In 1993, Alice Steinbach took a hiatus from her position as a columnist for the 'Baltimore Sun' and spent ten months visiting, and residing in for months or weeks at a t ...more
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alice Steinbach's children were grown and she realized she had "fallen into the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me." She wondered who she was outside of how she was defined by others and their expectations. She headed to Europe for a year to try to find the answer to those questions. This was an exquisite read on several levels -- as a memoir about growing older and determining who you are and how you want to be defined and as incredible t ...more
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Alice Steinbach, whose work at the Baltimore Sun was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1985, has been a freelance writer since 1999. She was appointed the 1998-1999 McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University and is currently a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
“I suspected, however, that I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find: the past and all the people and places there were lost to me.” 128 likes
“And who's to say that just because something lasts only a short time, it has little value?” 45 likes
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