Monday, 12 February 2018

NOTES OF A NAIVE TRAVELER by Jennifer S Alderson @JSAauthor

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads


How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie Amber's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

Genre: Travel memoir, non-fiction.

From the blurb:
 
Part guidebook on culture and travel, part journey of self-discovery, this travelogue takes you on a backpacking adventure through Nepal and Thailand and provides a firsthand account of one volunteer’s experience teaching in a Nepali school and living with a devout Brahmin family. 


This is quite a short book, written in semi-diary format, partly in emails, about the author's travels in 1999.  The then 26-year-old Jennifer plunges in at the deep end, living first with a Nepali family, trekking around the country, then teaching Nepali children, after which she hits the tourist trail in Thailand.

This book would be most useful as a guidebook for those hoping to travel to Nepal, as it certainly paints a realistic picture; any traveller with whimsical dreams of entering a spiritual heaven as soon as they get off the plane should read the account of Thamel, of the families who assume Westerners are fair game, and of the bloody temple sacrifices ~ the lunch of goat's blood will stay with me, I think...

I grew to like Jennifer more and more as the book went on (important when reading a memoir!), especially when she described the father of one of her Nepali families as 'kind of a schmuck' and the son as a 'little shit' - I have a fondness for those who dare to tell it like it is!  Her youthful enthusiasm is charming - everything is 'amazing', 'gorgeous', 'incredible', etc, though now and again I felt I would have liked to read about the place as seen through more mature eyes.  The most interesting parts of the book, for me, were her observations about the day to day habits and culture of the Nepalis and just little incidents that happened.  Her 'characters' really jumped off the page.  

On to Thailand, and Jennifer experiences the westernised tourist route of the famous Khao San Road and rejects it for more of the 'real' Thailand, though she was disappointed that the hill tribes lived not in mud huts but in shacks with corrugated tin rooves, with motorbikes and trucks parked outside, and that the caves where the Buddhist monks worked were strewn with electric cables.  Generally, though, her time in Thailand sounded so wonderful it almost made me whimper with longing.

(Her description of the more westernised areas of Bangkok reminded me of something a friend told me: Amy had been travelling around South America and Indonesia for almost a year, when some friends came out to join them for a few weeks in Thailand.  She said they were like the gap year backpackers, who thought that getting off their faces on exotic beaches was 'doing' Thailand, and weren't interested in seeing the actual country; they might as well have gone to Ibiza.)

I'd say that anyone who is thinking of visiting these countries, Nepal in particular, should take time to read this warts-and-all account, especially if they're thinking of signing up for the volunteer work that entails being placed with a family.  Jen comes across as a very open-minded and non-egotistical sort of person; maybe why she felt like a fish out of water in the working world of Seattle, and wanted to experience different lifestyles.  I'd definitely read more about her travels; I liked the conversational tone of this book very much.

There are pictures, too ~ always a plus, with a travel guide!




11 comments:

  1. Hi Terry Tyler! I really appreciate your interest in my travelogue and this wonderful review. I'm particularly glad to see you enjoyed the 'tell it as it is' approach to the book. Have a great night!

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    1. Absolutely. There's so much 'vanilla' on the internet these days, it's good to read someone not being scared to call someone else a schmuck!

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  2. I'm reading this at the moment so can totally relate to this review. Am thoroughly enjoying it.

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    1. Oh good! Yes - I read a lot of travel memoirs and this one was something a bit different, not saying how fabulous everything is.

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  3. Thanks, Terry. I've read one of the author's fiction books and enjoyed it, so I must add this one to the list.

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    1. It made me fancy her fiction, I'll have to have a look and see what sort of stuff she writes.

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  4. One of the (many) regrets that I have about life is that I never had the opportunity to travel. This sounds like an interesting book that tells things honestly.

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    1. You and me both, Lilyn. I think it's why I like travel memoirs so much!

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  5. One to check out, I think.Thanks, Terry

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