Lara Messersmith-Glavin's Reviews > Jupiter's Travels

Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon
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bookshelves: earth, mind, desert

My father is an adventurer at heart. He rode a motorcycle through South America a decade before Che; he jumped out of airplanes at night and landed in Southeast Asian jungles; he spent 40 years fishing in Alaska, both off Kodiak and in the Bering Sea. Now, he and my mother are retired, and they spend a good deal of their time traveling still - on a motorcycle. They have a great set-up: a trailer packed with a beautiful tent and an air mattress; picnic goodies, bottles of gin. They tool around Mexico and the continental U.S., camping in the back yards of breweries and hanging out for weekends at bluegrass shows. They've definitely got some things figured out.

They met Ted Simon, and enjoyed an afternoon of story-swapping; my dad said this book made him want to take off across the world again. Knowing my own taste for travel and the edgy, dangerous, or uncomfortable experience, my dad lent me his signed copy of this book as a way of sharing something he cares about.

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Most critics say that this book gave them an uncontrollable attack of Wanderlust. Strange - having spent most of my life in the grips of such restlessness, this book actually made me reflect on the temporary contentment I now enjoy after years of being anywhere but here.

Simon was a journalist prior to becoming a self-styled hero, and we are grateful - his writing is adequate, and often even lucid and beautiful. The Journey is strangely bodiless, for the most part. Simon writes like a pair of traveling eyes with an ego attached; rarely do we get saddle sores, headaches, heat rash, or dysentery on this 4-year odyssey. Perhaps he is a remarkably hardy specimen; perhaps he didn't think it necessary to put us through more than the occasional swarm of mosquitoes. Nonetheless, there is a closely observed richness to his writing, and an immediacy that shows he took good notes, and was able to revisit his experiences in sequence as well as through a greater common narrative.

Despite his occasionally inflated sense of self (he is extremely proud of his accomplishments, throughout), Simon makes for a thoughtful and sensitive tour guide. I chalk his accidental chauvinism up to a lack of insight - few informants for the world of women, as he traces his global story through the men he meets, with the occasional entrance of a woman as a beautiful or admirable thing, though rarely world-shaping or responsible for the building of human history.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone with a fondness for things other than the familiar, with a taste for travel, or even for the casual motorcycle fetishist. His trip is worth admiring, and worth using as an example - both of the possibilities that lie before individuals who choose to take the roads less traveled, and of the uncertainty that comes with any spiritual quest.
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Reading Progress

November 9, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
March 28, 2009 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Klaus (new)

Klaus ...this is in itself very beautifully written... glad to know that there are people out there with their eyes open, and their hearts, too. I did enjoy Ted Simons book, not being a wanderer myself but happily listening to the stories of those who are.


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