Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Book #7 "The Lost Girls" by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner

"[Holly] explained that during the years between twenty-eight and thirty, the planet Saturn completes its cycle through your birth chart, which marks the end of youth and the start of adulthood. And it brings with it monumental endings and new beginnings." -pg. 16

The first thing that impressed me about this book initially was its sheer size. Topping out at over 500 pages, it was definitely far larger than the other travel memoirs I'd been reading. What drew me to the book was its essential plot: three friends (all poised to turn 28 in the coming year) living in NYC decide to drop it all--jobs, boyfriends, etc.--and embark on a year-long around the world (or RTW) adventure.

There's Jennifer, who's relationship with her long-time boyfriend is going nowhere slowly. There's Amanda, who finds out one day that she finds jury duty more enjoyable than her current job. And there's Holly, who's job isn't quite what she wanted, along with feeling the crowd of NYC and longing for some space.

And so it begins. The girls give up leases, give their two-weeks notice and put all of their worldly possessions in storage. They trade in their NYC apartments for suitcases and backpacks, and they're off!!!

Throughout their journey through four different continents and an army of cockroaches, each of them have to face why exactly they came on this journey, as well as what terrifies them. Along the way, they also gain a new perspective on the world around them.

My absolute favorite part of the book is the portion at the girls' school in Kenya. Signing up via Village Volunteers, the three girls end up at a girls' school. learning what life is like for girls and women on the other side of the globe (and they decide to do something about it!) By each using their own special talents, each of these three amazing women teach the girls about self-confidence and self-empowerment, as well as learning a few things about themselves.

Don't think this book is all about fun and games, though! There are plenty of journeys gone awry, lost baggage, persnickety customs officials, creepy cab drivers, and a few semi-stalkerish dudes that can't take a hint. There's also a few friendly disagreements. However, I admire these girls so much for how they handle these disagreements with maturity and grace. Traveling with others is not always easy (as I've learned myself!), but these three do it, respecting each other's differences and doing it all with humor, respect, and togetherness.

By the end of this book, I not only admired Jennifer, Amanda, and Holly, I wanted to be them! I realized you don't have to have your life figured out in your twenties--that is the time to explore and find that kick-ass woman deep inside you. Plus, I got some really great ideas for some upcoming travels (I really fell in love with Kenya because of this book, as well as Australia).

 I truly felt like I had lost three best friends when I finished the book. Getting to know Jennifer, Amanda, and Holly was truly an honor and I hope they, The Lost Girls, know how much they've touched my life, I hope they do the same for you!

Thanks for reading! I hope you've enjoyed my book reviews! I will definitely add to the list when I finish more!

Up Next: It's my first Throwback Thursday!!! Featuring: Belfast, Northern Ireland

ETA: Thursday (of course!!!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book #6 “Adventures in Belfast” by Caroline Oceana Ryan

“You’ll know you’ve fully visited this amazing culture the moment you realize your life has changed in some remarkable way.” –Introduction

First of all, I should mention that I’m in love with Belfast, and I literally jumped for joy when this e-book popped up on my Amazon.com recommended list. For me, Belfast is not just a city, but a home. There are few places where I’ve ever really felt at home in the world, and although I was only there briefly, I felt at home in Belfast. The moment I stepped on the train to leave the city I swore to myself and to it that I'd be back.

That being said, I knew about “The Troubles” as they were called, the clashes between the Republican factions and the Unionist factions in the latter half of the 20th century that turned Belfast into a warzone, but not as in-depth as I would have liked. I took a class on ethnic conflict in my undergrad studies and we covered “The Troubles” briefly. But I did not know about them as thoroughly as I would have liked, and after going to Belfast and seeing this beautiful city and the murals commemorating the causes of both sides, I wanted a better picture of what had happened so relatively recently in that city.

That is where this book comes in. Caroline does an excellent job of shedding an unbiased light on both sides of the story, giving each side their chance to speak. There’s an amazing glossary of characters and organizations in the beginning of the book as well, to help the reader sort out the alphabet soup of splinter organizations that have broken off from the IRA and the UVF, as well as their political branches.

But more than that, what Caroline does is give us the reader a glimpse into what life in Northern Ireland is really like. We get to know the everyday people on the streets and those that work the farms outside of Belfast. We get to settle into an easy routine with Caroline, walking past City Hall and St. George’s Market. Through reading this book you’ll get a look at the scars left behind by “The Troubles” and get to know the people affected and the people who were in charge. This book contains many interviews with those involved on both sides, giving the reader a glimpse into the conflict we would not have had otherwise. Also, because this book takes place over several years, you get to see those scars heal and change. You get to revisit old friends and learn the craic, as well as seeing those friends grow and change, and most importantly, heal.

When I was in Belfast, I snapped a picture of saying written on a wall high above the street, it read: “A city that keeps one eye on the past is wise; a city that keeps two eyes on the past is blind.” That saying holds true, and the people that Caroline meets embody this, knowing they can never forget, but must move on. I think that’s a lesson we can all learn from, as well as taking away a renewed appreciation for the North.

So you have no excuse!

Thanks for reading! Until next time!

Up Next: “The Lost Girls” by Jennifer Baggett, Amanda Pressner, and Holly Corbett

ETA: Monday!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book #5: "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

"Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told." -pg. 51

"Wild" is one of those books that found me at the exact right time. It was a bit of a divergence from the other books I'd been reading--geographically, anyway. Cheryl is not backpacking through Europe or India, she's backpacking across the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)--a trail that spans from Mexico through California all the way up to Canad. Oh, and she's doing it alone

At the moment Cheryl takes her first step on the PCT, she's broken. Cheryl and her mother were incredibly close, but when her mother passed away several years before, something shatters inside Cheryl. With a few years Cheryl went from an about-to-be-college graduate with a loving husband to being a college dropout who's cheated on her husband, as well as being a heroin user.

Now, divorced and finally alone, Cheryl is all by herself and determined to make it on the PCT. There's bears and rattlesnakes and an army of little black frogs (that one would have broken me!) along the way. And more importantly, there's healing. Among the trees and the snow and the blisters and the falling off toenails, and along that foot and a half wide path, Cheryl begins to heal. She begins to heal from the absence of her abusive father, from the death of her mother, from the death of the life she knew, from the mess she made of her marriage, and from all the little things she did along the way.

There's plenty of dark moments in this book, and there's plenty of challenges. But out of those moments comes inspiration. And hope. Hope that even at your lowest point, even when you've blown your own perfect life to hell, even when you've strayed so far from the person you were meant to be, you can still become that person. And, if you're lucky, maybe you can be an even better and stronger person than you thought possible.

Sometimes the bad things and the tragic things and the mistakes are only your beginning (not your end) and there's so much waiting for you--you only have to start walking.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Up Next: "Adventures in Belfast" by Caroline Oceana Ryan

ETA: Friday!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book #4 "At Least You're in Tuscany" by Jennifer Criswell

"Lots of people dream of Tuscany. Most do the sensible thing: they rent villas with friends and spend their days touring the countryside and hill towns. they sip wine, savor the food, and enjoy the same conversations of their regular lives...only in Tuscany. [...] There are fewer people who actually decide to pull up roots and move to Tuscany." -pg. 3

And that's exactly what Jennifer Criswell does. She takes your run of the mill travel memoir and takes it up a notch. There is no return ticket booked for Jennifer. She is in Italy to stay.

This book appealed to me for several reasons:
     1) It's got freakin' TUSCANY in the title--I could stop here, but in case that's not enough to hook you, I'll keep going. 
     2) She's an ex-lawyer (and me being a recent law school grad a little weary of her chosen career path, to read the same uncertainty was a breath of fresh air).
     3) She mentions my hero-Lucy Ricardo-in the first few pages!
     4) She moves to another country.

Jennifer details not only the perils that all people traveling will understand (like language barriers), but also those things you can only learn from actually living there. Explore the markets of Moltepuciano with Jennifer (oh, and her dog, Cinder!), do laundry and hang out your scandalously red towels out to dry, and have yourself an Italian fling. 

In addition, you'll learn a lot about Jennifer's quest to get work authorization and Italian citizenship. You'll also get acquainted with the Italian bureaucratic system and the endless red tape on the road to finally becoming a citizen.

Jennifer encounters many woes and her first year in Moltepuciano is filled with pitfalls, but along the way it is also filled with hope, new friends, handsome men, caring strangers, coffee, and creativity. Even when things aren't going her way, Jennifer always reminds herself, "At least you're in Tuscany."

Her will and determination to eek it out, even when things aren't exactly going her way will inspire anyone who's ever dreamed of living abroad. It won't be easy, but it will always be worth it!

Thanks for reading!!!

Up Next: "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

ETA: Wednesday!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book #3 “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” by Rachel Friedman

“Here are the facts of the present moment. It’s 2002, I’m twenty years old. I've just embarked on four months in a foreign country alone. I’m carrying six hundred dollars in traveler’s checks, money saved up from waitressing last semester. I booked two nights in a Dublin hostel before I left. Other than that, I've got no plan. And this greatly confounds me because I always have a plan. At least I used to be the kind of girl who always has a plan.” -pg. 4

And thus, we meet Rachel, who I readily identified with from the very beginning, being a girl without a plan myself as I was reading this book. We first encounter Rachel hauling her giant red suitcase into a hostel in Dublin, with no plan and looking for work. Pretty soon she’s off to Galway and before long rents a small apartment there with two guys and another girl—named Carly. And so starts the first part of a three-part adventure that will lead Rachel around the world.

Carly is the ultimate cool best friend. Carly has traveled and seen a lot of the world, and is in no mood to stop traveling either. I think it’s Carly that gives Rachel a glimpse of what life can be, and that sometimes, you don’t need a plan.

Before long, Rachel and Carly are on their way to Carly’s home country, Australia, where Rachel meets Carly’s family and finds out there are about 10,000 different ways to die in Australia. It seems everything in Australia is deadly in one way or another, from snakes to vicious birds to spontaneously falling limbs off a tree. However, even with the slightly life threatening circumstances, Rachel describes the continent with such detail and such love it make me really want to visit.

Then, much to her parents’ chagrin, soon after she came back Rachel is off again, this time for a whirlwind trip around South America with Carly. Encountering altitude sickness, pickpockets and visa problems, Rachel and Carly do it all, along with making their friendship stronger by learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

I was really happy to see Rachel and Carly work through the difficult patches of their friendship while they were traveling. I have traveled with a “best” friend, and needless to say, we weren't really even friends by the time the trip was over, but that’s another story for another day.

I loved reading about Rachel’s adventures, I want to do a working holiday in Ireland soon and I loved reading about what I might encounter while I’m there. I also love reading about places I have been (Dublin and Galway both) and I get homesick for the places I've traveled to, so this book helped ease some that.

Also, I love reading about places I've never visited, only to walk away with a new found appreciation for that place, as well as a hunger to visit. I had that with the Australia portion of the book. I’d never really wanted to visit the continent known as Oz, but after reading about Rachel’s experiences, I desperately want to feel that warm Australian sunshine on my face.

And, even with the idea of a handsome guy in an Irish bar in South America, I’m still not so sure I want to travel there, but Rachel made it sound appealing so…I’ll go there one day.
Most of all, what I’m learning from all these books is that it’s okay to be a little lost, okay to live without a plan and just live. These women in these books all face the same things that I, and probably a lot of you, are facing right now, and you know what? They come through it as better and more amazing people because of it. All of the struggles and the experiences, good and bad, made them the kick-ass women they are today. And that’s what I hope to be when all is said and done. I hope one day someone writes about me on their burgeoning travel blog and describes me as a “kick-ass woman.”  I’ll be in really good company. :)

Thanks for reading!!! Until next time!

Up Next: “At Least You’re in Tuscany” by Jennifer Criswell

ETA: Monday!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Note on Scotland (Back to the books tomorrow! Promise!)

So, I have to confess, I haven't actually been to Scotland. But I tried, seriously! So, I thought I'd share the story of how I TRIED to get there back in 2012, because sometimes trips don't turn out the way you plan, but even then you have a story to tell.  :)

I had traveled up to Northern Ireland with two friends of mine, we'd spent the previous day at Giant's Causeway and taking a taxi tour around Belfast to see the murals. Side note: If you can, rent the taxi and go to Giant's Causeway! It was relatively cheap and it was so awesome. I'm sure there will be a forthcoming post on it, but just to tell you right now, DO IT! And cab drivers in Belfast will be more than happy to show tourists around the murals!

Anyway, we'd planned all week to take the ferry from Belfast, pop on over to Scotland, breathe the air, wander around for a few hours and catch the ferry back. All we really wanted to do was to say that we'd actually BEEN to Scotland. 

We had it all planned out, we'd looked up the ferry schedule online, set our alarm clocks, we were going to get there on-the-dot.

Well, I suppose after traveling around the Republic of Ireland for several weeks previously, we got a little used to Ireland-time (if you know what I mean :) ). However, Northern Ireland is on British-time. My friend and I showed up at the harbor a little before the scheduled departure and...the ferry had left early. Without us. And there wasn't going to be another one that would allow us enough time to get back to NI catch our bus back down south. So we had to leave Scotland untouched.

When our friends asked us how Scotland was we simply said, "For the first time in Irish history, something left on time." You see, for the past few weeks we'd been traveling with our classmates, and we learned that "We'll leave at 8" meant, "We'll leave around 10:30." And if someone says "It's an hour walk" that actually means 3 hours. Not in Northern Ireland, unfortunately for us. 

So no Scotland. And, by the looks of the Scottish Referendum, I still have not been to EVERY country in the United Kingdom (Scotland being the only one I haven't visited). Oh well, that gives me something to do on my upcoming travels!

I hope you enjoyed my story, and I'll get back to the book reviewing tomorrow (today has just been crazy!).

Thanks for reading!!! Feel free to comment and tell me how I can improve this blog, I'd love to hear from you!!!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book #2 "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

"But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person you brings you to attention so you can change your life A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful." -pg. 149

I know what you're thinking. This is supposed to be a unique travel blog and I pick one of the most well-known travel memoirs of all time? Give me chance okay?

I didn't intend to read all the travel memoirs I did, but when reading my last book, "What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding" (see previous post), Kristin Newman mentioned she'd been reading it during one of her travels, so I thought, why not? Then I just couldn't stop after this one. 

I don't think the book is for everyone, but at the point that I was at in my life (heartbroken and confused) It was perfect for me. In the first third of the book, the author travels to Italy, somewhere I've always wanted to go. Her descriptions of Italian vistas and majestic Italian food was definitely the peek into Italy that I was looking for. 

However, it was the second part of the book that brought tears to my eyes. When I came across the passage mentioned above, I had to put the book down and cry, because I'd said goodbye to a soul mate of mine just a few months before. 

So, what I have to say about the book is this, read it when it comes to you, because like angels, sometimes books come into your life for a special purpose, and I knew what that purpose was (for me) when I read those lines.

Also, I alternated between disliking Ms. Gilbert for totally just trashing her seemingly perfect life, and being so damn envious of her for trashing her seemingly perfect life and actually living a life with nothing but a suitcase. If only we could all be that brave. It made me realize you don't have to be content with the life you have just because it's the life you have, sometimes you have to make mistakes, trash it, change it, and start over. And sometimes the people you love have to make mistakes, trash you, change you, and start all over. Instead of breaking because of it, embrace those soul mates and let them go, and embrace that changes that you yourself are now allowed to make now that they are no longer in your life.  Changes like that allow you to be selfish, to think about you and only you, and decide what you really want to do--and that is really not a bad thing at all!

Thanks for reading!!! Until next time!

Up next: "The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost" by Rachel Friedman

ETA: Tomorrow (or the next day!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book #1 "What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding" by Kristin Newman

"So the deep and profound moral of this trip? If at all possible, at least once (or twice) in your life, get as naked as possible with a Brazilian."  pg. 146

That and many more are the kinds of laugh out loud and at times deeply profound words of wisdom you're going to find in this book. From the moment I read the title, standing in the book aisle at Target, I knew that I was going to LOVE this book. Mainly because the majority of my friends are getting engaged, getting married or getting pregnant (sometimes all three at the same time!), and while there is nothing wrong with that--that's not for me, at least not right now.
In this book, Kristin Newman recounts her various travels--and romantic conquests along the way. And there are many of both, I assure you!
If you've ever wondered what would be like to be a kick-ass single woman traveling the world, then this is the book for you.
As Kristin hops around the globe she describes the amazing wonders of each destination, from stunning South American vistas to European nightclubs, she leaves nothing out. And of course, most importantly, there's the locals she meets and then there are the HOT local men she meets. If you're not envious of Kristin for her ability to romance these hot exotic men at each destination (language barriers be damned!)--then you should be! It's like chatting with that big sister you always wanted to be!
This is the book that stoked those embers of my travel bug back into a full-blown bonfire. It introduced me to someone like me, who is not ready to settle down just quite yet--at least not before she's seen the world! And that was amazing. So check it out! You'll love it :)

Until next time!!! Thanks for reading!

Up Next: "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

ETA: Tomorrow!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hi Everyone!!!
Welcome to my blog, Without Anchor. This is my first blog post EVER, so bear with me if I make any blog faux pas!
As you can probably tell, I love traveling and I can't wait to do more. Like I've said in my profile, I like living out of a suitcase--it bothers some people but not me!
I've been reading A LOT of travel memoirs this summer and I'd love to post a short review/summary/whathaveyou of each one (all good thoughts, I promise!).
So until I can get back out on the road I'd love to share what I've been reading and maybe give you a few suggestions for your reading list.


Up next: Book #1 "What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding" by Kristin Newman
ETA: Tomorrow!

Thanks for reading! :)