I was not so much “running away” from anything as I was “running towards” everything.
It’s been far too long since I added a virtual title to the book shelves of my Travel Porn book review series. Truth be told, up until recently, it had been a while since I read something in the wanderlust genre that really inspired me. I was starting to feel that old literary longing, a desire to read words so stirring that they inspire flight searches. But I was coming up empty. Then, in March, I arrived in Guatemala and crashed with my friend Luke Armstrong, an accomplished musician, traveler, and writer. When I mentioned I was in the market for a good read on my way up to Lake Atitlán, he presented a beautiful gift — his own recently self-published title, The Nomad’s Nomad: Intrepid Stories From The Road.
And I’m so glad he did.
A Look Inside
The Nomad’s Nomad is a collection of thirty-nine short stories of hope and hilarity.
What makes the Nomad’s Nomad special is that he’s not just a fantastic writer but a truly spectacular traveler. If I did not know the author personally, I might raise an eyebrow at the veracity of some of his tales, from trying to meet a Kenyan dictator at a soccer match, to financing a trip to the United Kingdom by selling loose cigarettes on the streets of London, to getting interviewed by Christiane Amanpour for his work running a malnourished children’s center in Guatemala, to dropping everything to hike a volcano in search of a rare butterfly with a Scottish entomology hobbyist, to joining fisherman for a day of work in a remote bay of Colombia. But having been lucky to tag along on a few of his day to day adventures myself, I can assure you that each one of them rings a thousand percent true (plus, I totally watched the Amanpour interview on YouTube.)
And, in a beautiful little bonus chapter, The Nomad’s Nomad introduced me to the poem Ithaka, by Constantine Cavafly, a new favorite I’ve now returned to countless times in the past months.
What I Liked
I loved this book. The short story format is one of my favorites, especially on the road! I love being able to absorb a bite-size story on the beach, in a bus, or sitting on my backpack in line somewhere.
While the book hops across the globe along with the author, common threads tie the geographically-spread stories together. There is the reckless search for adventure, the constant love for a close-knit family, and a struggle every nomad can relate to, the constant questioning of when to go home, and where this place called home exists. As he muses, “At some point, we all long for home. Home not as a place, but as a state of affairs where we can find familiar comforts and the intersecting lives of those we love.”
Luke’s love for Guatemala is tantamount to my own for a little place called Thailand — “a place that both felt like home and somewhere foreign.” Many of the stories circle around to Antigua, and anyone who has spent time as an expat will relate to his complex relationship with that city.
Yet as deep as the philosophizing goes, so too does the humor. I often laughed out loud, hard, and almost wore through the pages as I underlined phrases I wished I had written so vigorously.
It was a joy reading this book, from reminiscing about places I’ve been, to revisiting existential questions I’ve asked myself, to even reacquainting myself with some of the characters I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person.
What I Didn’t Like
When Luke and I chatted about the book upon my return to his couch in Antigua, I confessed that I had but one criticism. I don’t think the cover — the one thing I am not, in fact, meant to judge a book by — reflects the sophistication of the stories within. But once you crack the spine, it’s really golden.
Who This Book Is For
Backpackers, adventurers, armchair travelers, philosophers, Guatemala fans, expats, and aspiring writers looking for inspiration.
Now It’s Your Turn
Today I’m giving away a brand new copy of The Nomad’s Nomad: Intrepid Stories From The Road to one of you! Think of it as a virtual free bookshelf at your favorite hostel. Readers from all countries are welcome to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Travel Porn is a feature in which I review books from my beloved travel literature genre. So far I’ve reviewed titles like Bangkok Noir, a short story collection that brings the noir genre to the steamy streets of Thailand, Hotel Honolulu, a fictional account of a Waikiki hotel manager’s quirky life in a paradise lost, Walking the Amazon, the true story of a man who spent 860 walking the entire length of the Amazon, Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a tale of the “discovery” of the world’s most famous lost city — and more! This genre, this kind of book — it’s travel porn, plain and simple. Find all reviews here.