I have most recently completed two travel stories that were sent to me for review and decided I should put them together for a two-in-one blog post. Travel stories typically make for intriguing read because of the very nature of traveling unseats people from their comfort zone and throw them in the face of bewildering changes, giving them the chance to interact with the unknown and opening up space for self-reflection.
The first book is “A Breeze in Bulgaria” by former Peace Corp member Bruce McDonald recounting his volunteering experiences in the ex-Soviet country back in the early 2000s. The second book is “Double Happiness” by Tony Brasunas who was in China to teach English in 1997 and his traverses through the vast Middle Kingdom.
Both titles are written by Americans who chose to take a step away from their relatively affluent lifestyles to re-live their lives in developing nations, and through their journeys, they discovered new truths that is best expressed by Brasunas:
“Time does not exist for travelers – they’re always children at heart, always living in the first day of creation.” Travelers have always by necessity welcomed this magic, this fate, danger, and discover. Travelers ineluctably live in the now.”
In “Double Happiness,” Brasnus moves to China right after graduating from college to teach English, and this novel documents his time there. Funded by Kickstarter, this is a sleek product that is as a result of a decade of writing and editing, as could be seen particularly in the smooth transition between the two main sub-plots.
One of them took place in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou where he first arrived to teach and was mostly about the cultural shocks and misfortunes he experienced, such as being overcharged while grocery shopping due to language barriers. His true adventures though only began when he arrived in Beijing to navigate through the belly of China for in the process, he lost himself, fell in love and thought hard about life.
“How can one ever be happy,” she asks, “when one knows that soon all will be finished and over?” Goldmund pauses before answering. “About that, the wise men and saints have wracked their brains. There is no lasting happiness. But if what we now have is not good enough for you, if it no longer pleases you, then I’ll set fire to this hut this very minute and each of us can go his way.”
The next novel “A Breeze in Bulgaria” recounts the two years that retiree Bruce McDonald and his wife Stormy spent in Bulgaria as peace corps volunteers. From canning tomatoes to meeting their new neighbors, the couple learnt the hardy and resilient way of life the locals lived with new appreciation for their lives back in America.
It was lovely to read about how the couple hand-in-hand went through all the highs and the lows of their trip together, and as a reader, I was able to sense the intimate relationship they shared from in between the lines. Yet the book felt too long, peppered with too many details that were times unnecessary and out of place such that I had to put the book down a couple of times because it was digressing too far off from the central plot.
What books do you read to satisfy the wanderlust in you? Let me know of your latest travel reads and do show some support for the authors below!
Copies of these books were kindly provided by the authors/publishers for review. This post though reflects my true and honest opinions.