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Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  15,166 ratings  ·  1,363 reviews
“I move throughout the world without a plan, guided by instinct, connecting through trust, and constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities.” —From the Preface

Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. t
Paperback, 312 pages
Published May 28th 2002 by Broadway Books (first published May 22nd 2001)
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Wendy Welch
Jun 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Sigh . . . another person whose life is in upheaval decides she needs to know what the simple folk do, and goes a-traveling. The most tragicomic moment of complete un-self-awareness comes when the author reckons up what it would take to live in deep south Mexico for a year and decides it would be as little as $15,000!

Honeybun, there are women raising five kids on one third of that where you were. And they're lucky.

If this had been a male writer and about martial arts, it would've been the book A
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
This is one of those memoirs that is all about ME. I did this, and then I did that, and then I did this. And that might be okay, if not for the fact that everyone is Gelman's book is infinitely more interesting than she. It's like being stuck on a tour bus with a chatty guide who is more interested in telling you about her experiences than anything you're seeing. Meanwhile, all the sights go streaming by.

Gelman is the ultimate unreliable narrator -- she's kind of pushy, obnoxious, and self-cente
Jan 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, bc-copy
I hated this book. Probably because I expected to really like it. The author wasn't very likeable for me, and I didn't like her exploits. She's also not a true nomad, having a good income from her books and being able to fly back to visit her children whenever she wanted, and staying in one place for years at a time without having to wash dishes for a living.
The incident in Guatemala when her host was beating his wife creeped me out: "I can't interfere, that's her destiny". Bullshit.
And then i
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I disliked this woman from the first page. Flaky, self-aggrandizing, selfish. "I prefer soup kitchens to charity banquets" and "all my friends were too white and too American." But I kept reading.
And I disliked her more. The kind of mother who stops mothering when her kids reach 18, living a life where they cannot possibly contact her for help or support. The kind of woman who watches a Mexican man beat his wife and thinks, "Well thats just their culture, I shouldn't interfer" but is incensed by
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I have read many of the other reviews of this book, and I guess I must have missed many of the things that other reviewers mentioned. Yes, this book is written about her, but that's the is about her and her travels. I have read and re-read this book, and every time I finish it, I say "Man, I envy her her courage". And my husband points out that I say that every single time I finish this book. Through Rita, I got to peek behind the curtains, so to speak. I met people I otherwise wouldn ...more
Apr 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
No! Absolutely NOT! I will not continue to waste my time with this woman who completely missed the point of her "nomadic life" with other cultures.

Another reviewer remarked, "This is one of those memoirs that is all about ME. I did this, and then I did that, and then I did this. And that might be okay, if not for the fact that everyone is Gelman's book is infinitely more interesting than she. It's like being stuck on a tour bus with a chatty guide who is more interested in telling you about her
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers of Eat, Pray, Love
Recommended to Jennifer by: pri
Life as a confident independent woman has its rewards. Inspiring tales from the road and the kitchen, and makes me want to email Ms. Gelman, renew my passport, and pack a bag.
Leslie Kastner
Jul 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
I disliked this book so much that I couldn't even finish it. It's a memoir - but written in present tense - which drives me crazy. The processing is superficial and dull. ...more
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
putting this on a "good"reads list actually makes me cringe a little bit. i picked this book up because i had a hard time finding books about indonesia (fiction) online, and this came up in my search. it was touted (by one reader) as the predecessor to "eat, pray, love". well, there's a reason Eat, Pray, Love made it big and this one not so much.

the author means well but her writing was choppy. you can tell that she's used to writing for kids. "they do this. i am flattered." chop chop chop. may
Suzie Sims-Fletcher
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
I saw this book on an endtable at the home of two of them had traveled fairly extensively - or so the masks on her walls implied. They were both in their early 30s.

After reading almost straight through this book - I - well - I was inspired. I am not sure if the writing itself is brilliant...but what she DID is encouraging for people/women who haven't ....done.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-long-ago, travel
I read this the year I was commuting to my job at a chocolate shop, so 2001 I guess. I ended up buying it again along the way to read again. A light book about self-discovery through travel.
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: women, travelers, anthropologists
At the age of forty, Rita Golden Gelman has something of an epiphany. She no longer wants to live the life of luxury that she has been - fancy dinner parties, awards ceremonies, etc. She decides it's never what she wanted in the first place. She begins to pursue a degree in anthropology, which begins to put a strain on an already not so stable marriage.

At the end of the program, she has to go live in a community for awhile, and she and her husband decide to take a two month break while she does
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Great stories about the author and her life abroad. Oh, let's not forget that she decided to set out and do this at the ripe age of 47. Detailed accounts of her trip piqued my travel thoughts and made me want to go to this amazing places. She has an interesting perspective on life and i enjoy how sometimes she questions them along the way. She basically travels to live in other cultures and integrate herself into their daily life.

I find the favor bank idea interesting. Here's an excerpt, "The '
Nov 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Four stars because I love travel writing from a female perspective. I relate to Rita a lot as she discusses her anthropology background and how this affects her approach to travel and interacting with locals. I also appreciate her sense of adventure and ability to laugh at herself. But I do agree with others that her writing is very self-indulgent and I rolled my eyes a few times. I felt the same way about Eat, Pray, Love. I wish I had the money and lack of responsibility to live and travel like ...more
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Ok, i admit, I have not finished reading this book yet. She is a bit long winded and slightly self centered in the fact that her focus seams to mainly be concerned with herself. I know its a book about her journeys, so that is supposed to present in the book...but i don't know...whenever she does selfless acts, it seams like its not really self-less. This is just my opinion. She really lost my will to continue on in the chapter where she talked about the Zapotec village. Her hostess was beaten r ...more
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am a person who loves to travel and I've done my share of traveling -- I'm still jealous. To be able to get up and go, to leave your known world for a bit of the unknown, seems like a luxury that most of can't afford - either because of financial issues, or lack of time, or the responsibilities of real life that bind us to our homes. What I liked about this memoir was Rita's personal journey. Her first trip was to close-by Mexico and, yes, she did go to live in a village, but the Mexican cultu ...more
Jennifer Morley
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked this up in an airport on my way to visit my parents in Oregon, thinking it would be a mildly interesting or at least entertaining read to pass the hours. At the end of my flight, I realized I'd stumbled upon a little trove of adventurous, feminist travel writing. Not unlike the premise of Eat, Pray, Love, the author begins her journey with a divorce from her husband, with whom she had shared a highly cultured urban lifestyle of privilege. She also divorces the woman she had become in th ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was a book club selection otherwise I probably wouldn't have finished it.

I found it frustrating. Here is a writer in interesting parts of the world and what I mostly learn about is her. And it's not even that reflective or insightful. If you are going to talk about yourself, you need to make it interesting, not just a string of descriptions and anecdotes. I can't even begin to say how irritating I found her pious refelction that she couldn't interfere in a wife-beating incident, because she
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. The author is in her forties and her husband has decided he needs some time away from her. She is forty eight and it is the mid 1980's. So she leaves. Her children are grown and she wants to live in different cultures. With very few plans, she ends up in Mexico. This it how it begins her life for the next 15 years traveling to many different cultures, living with families and making extraordinary friendships. Rita Golden Gelman is an author of children's books but this ...more
This book is about friendship, about people of completely different cultures and how simple it really is for friendship to grow between all of us. In the author's words:

"Communication is not difficult because we all share the sensations of human emotions, the need to affirm our sameness and the universal capacity to laugh."

I highly recommend this book. Its message is wonderful. The stories told are very interesting.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This woman just dove right in. OK, first she got a Masters in Anthropology to get a taste but then she dove right in. She completely immersed herself in the cultures. Lived in a remote Mexican village with the villagers. Went into the Indonesian forests and learned the language, no easy feat. Gave up her cushy LA lifestyle and never looked back.
Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
While the concept is quite amazing and Gelman's courage is inspiring, the composition of this novel is disappointing. The fact that Gelman is a children's book writer is quite evident. This book reads like a mediocre college application essay. I enjoyed reading of places I had never before heard of and would recommend this to anyone interested in world travel. However, if you are a critical or cynical reader (as I am) you may be annoyed with her simple "revelations" and writing style. It seems t ...more
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was thrilling! Rita took me on a trip to many countries in a way that I would want to experience the countries. She lived the lives of the people of the countries as closely as she could have. I envy her the experience. I have lived briefly in several countries and for an extended time in one country, but I think I always was still a tourist, as I did not truly live the life of a citizen of the country. This book ends in 2001, when Rita was 62, I wonder what she is doing today?
This is an amazing, astounding book! I couldn't put it down! Rita Golden Gelman is still wandering the world and you can follow her at I called Rita and she came to my home to do a book group at my home in Atlanta. What a great day! What a great woman! What a great story! ...more
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel-writing
Eh, it's just okay. Golden Gelman's writing is, at times, boring and slow moving. Sometimes she irritated me with her very American idea that she can just waltz into poor countries and set up a home AND that people will invite her to stay in their homes with them. I realize it's probably very American of me to want advance notice when people stop by for the night and to be wary of strangers from different countries randomly asking me for a place to stay but... wait, wouldn't that seem weird to a ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Dammit, my review was just lost. I loved this book. Strengthened my faith in the human race. Incredibly easy and comfortable read, incredible story. Inspiring. Restoring. Not five stars, as it's not a literary masterpiece (or that's not for me to decide), but memorable and exceptional on that level.

Merged review:

I loved this book. So much so, I found myself crying while finishing it this morning, and walked around the house w/ it a bit (in addition to Nikki Giovanni's Bicycles: Love Poems), so I
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I loved the flow with which Rita writes. Easy, fascinating read. Frankly I am jealous of Rita's nomadic life style. She has truly tasted the rich flavors of the world. Something I have always dreamed of doing. Seeing and learning about other cultures around the world and in my own backyard. But, I don't have the guts to let go of life's habits and routines and family ties and health concerns for the few remaining elder's and my health as well are a hindrance to the letting go ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, travel
Rita Gelman decided to make a trip to Mexico while on a break from her husband. It turned out to be the turning point for her. She and her husband divorced and she found herself traveling to Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand among other places. She is a people person by all accounts and dives into living in the culture of those she stays with. I will admit that at first I had a feeling of resentment towards the author because she, as a white female woman, has been able to enter into other cul ...more
I’m a sucker for a travel book. Especially when it takes me on adventures I wouldn’t dare do on my own, much less with a guide. From the first pages of Tales of a Female Nomad, I was drawn in. The author, Rita Golden Gelman, began the journey with the end of her marriage. Newly free, she embarks on a round the world trip with the goal of immersing herself in different cultures and making new, international friends.

Almost immediately, I am fascinated by her trip to a Zapotec Village in Mexico. Ho
It's taken me years to write this review. This book made a considerable impression on me, but one the author probably didn't intend. For years I had dreamed of a life where I could travel all the time. I'm the only one I know that when I go on vacation, I'm never ready to go home. I just want to hop on another plane or train and go off to see the next place!

In college I studied abroad and traveled around Europe and Russia. At the time I read this I was working for a government agency and had fi
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“My spirit gets nourished in faraway places. Sometimes I wonder if it's a biological need, perhaps a biological flaw, that compels me to seek the excitement and challenge that comes of being in a place where nobody knows me.

Other times I think that my compulsion to settle into communities that are different from the ones I know is related to my passion for experiential learning. I learn best and most happily by doing, touching, sharing, tasting. When I'm somewhere I've never been before, learning goes on all day, every day.”
“As an observer, I am particularly interested in watching women, married, divorced, single. So many of them trapped in lives they think they must live, in roles they have come to resent, with little job and no laughter. They've "settled." They've compromised. They've learned to adjust.

Among the divorced, many are bitter, coloring their lives with resentment; others live only to meet the man who will complete them.

I have no intentions of adjusting, and I am not looking to define myself by the man I am with. The new me is feeling rebellious, looking for excitement, bursting with energy to explore. There is no way that I am going to sit around feeling sorry for myself, thinking that the only way I can enjoy life is with a man.

With no possessions, no home, and no precedent, I am free to design a life that fits me. Best of all, I have tasted the life I want. My Mexican adventure opened me up. I want more. During my four months away, I met interesting people, I was never bored, and I laughed more than I had in years. I resolve to continue exploring the world, ignoring the THEY who define how people should live.”
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