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Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves



I have been curious about reading this book for quite some time now. Of course anything with the word wanderlust in it instantly catches my attention, but I waited until after I had traveled more. [I’ve found that the more I travel, the more I want to read about other people’s experiences in places I’ve visited.] I have very mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the first half of the book when Eaves was new to travel, excited about her adventures and the stories were about just that, her adventures. Later on in the book the stories shift from tales about travels to tales about short & long love affairs, cheating and double lives. Her tone of wander turns to something that sounds more like bitterness. However, there were parts of the book that I related to and enjoyed and think are worth discussing.

⋙ Eaves very astutely sums of objectification that happens during backpacking. There were several times that I told Stacey, while backpacking, that I was so tired of people scamming me or assuming I had loads of money because I was a Westerner and Eves writes, “You just have to go out in public somewhere poor. You become a thing. Your conscious and unique self becomes irrelevant, as a thousand eyes try to figure out how to best tap your wealth. And objectification begets objectification. The harassers become an undifferentiated mass themselves, made up of identical things that torment.” I thought this was really interesting because while I thought that it was irritating to be objectified, I too was electing to lose sight of their unique selves.

⋙ When I first arrived in Cambodia, I looked at all of the worn-in backpackers wearing their elephant-print pants, bracelets all up their arms and sun-bleached hair and I thought they look so cool! It’s true! I wanted to look like them- they seemed so unique. Then less than a month in, I noticed that I too had adopted the backpackers wardrobe. Eaves talks about seeing travelers with the same jewelry and says, “We thought we were iconoclasts at the far edge of the world, but here we were in uniform, like members of any clique.”

⋙ Another thing she wrote about was comforts. Paying a little extra meant something small in your life was a little bit easier. But paying that also makes you seem like a less-intense backpacker. It’s weird how these things sometimes start to play in your head. In a backpacker culture, while swapping stories people get competitive and I think Eaves captures why perfectly, “Every decision was like this: I was not allowed to take the easier, usually pricier route, route. I needed to save money, sure, but cheapness was also a barometer to something else. It measured my ability to get by, satisfying that need to prove myself to myself, as well as all the judgers and skeptics – other travelers… anyone who thought I wasn’t tough enough-whom I imagined watching over my shoulder.” I think that every word of that was true for me. I wanted to prove to myself just how little I could get by on, that it somehow made me more resilient.

⋙ “When traveling stops changing you, it’s time to go home.” I think that needs no explanation, but it is true and important to remember. I haven’t hit it yet, but I truly believe that it is possible to try to take in too much at one time.

I really enjoyed hearing about one particular love in Elisabeth’s story, Graham. I loved the first half of the book when she would reference him. He was one of the main inspirations for her adventures. She thought of what he would think of her adventures, if what she did would have impressed him… I loved seeing how they met up and traveled past each other over time and kept in touch. I didn’t agree with her idea that wanderers like to have their life at home too which can lead to a sort of double life. I do understand the longing for the best of both worlds, but not in the way she explains it; she uses that want for not aspects of life as an excuse to cheat on several people. Despite not be able to identify with most of the relationships she describes, I did really enjoy the first half of the book and thought I would share some of the quotes I highlighted that captured the spirit and even oddities & hardships of travel:


“The idea of roaming intoxicated me to the extent that I couldn’t look at the glossy covers of a magazine, or browse the travel section of a bookstore, without getting a lump in my throat.”


“In a new culture you stand on something more like water than land, and it goes on shifting under your fee. The cultures most similar to our own can provoke the greatest unease, because the differences are unexpected.”


So much of my traveling… had made me feel present in the moment. In fact, that feeling of being absorbed, not thinking of the past or future… was a part of the reason I loved being on the road. But now, instead of feeling present, I felt like I was missing out on something I was supposed to be doing somewhere else.”


“The best kind of travel- the kind I wanted to experience – involved a particular state of mind, in which one is not merely open to the occurrence of the unexpected, but to deep involvement in the unexpected, indeed, open to the possibility of having one’s life changed forever by a chance encounter.”


“Theoretically you can take on any old adventure at home, bungee jumping or spelunking or whatever. But you don’t. The mind is primed by going away. Desire and appetite build and you feel like you can’t miss a thing, because who knows when you’re going to have this chance again? Everything has to be tasted.”


What travel books have you read? Which have inspired you? Which have fallen short of your expectations? I’d love to hear what your favorites are.

To keep up with my travels in real-time and read more posts and travel articles I find interesting ‘like’ the For the Love of Wanderlust page on Facebook. Simply click HERE.

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