“She is both restless vagabond and astute observer as she crisscrosses five continents, chasing the exotic in both culture and romance.”
The back of the book should really quote the lyric from one of Salt-n-Pepa’s famous songs (“Let’s Talk About Sex)-“Let’s talk about sex baby, let’s talk about you and me” because that’s basically what I took away from Elisabeth Eaves’ book. She has sex…a lot. It wasn’t so much a love affair on five continents as it was a sex affair on five continents.I get it, she was a young and, judging by her sultry author picture, sexy young woman whom men probably flocked to in droves. I enjoy travel memoirs a lot, especially those written by women. And while I have certainly read other travel memoirs in which the female author had sex or wrote about it, never before had I read a travel memoir in which it seemed the author’s sexual experiences held more importance than the actual travel.
By all accounts Eaves had a pretty charmed upbringing, including spending a school year in Spain with her family as a young child while her dad was on sabbatical. She was born and grew up in Canada, although she had dual citizenship as both of her parents were American. She gets on my nerves when she when she ridicules the American traveler in her writing. And yet her being “officially” an American too allowed her to gain a prestigious internship with the AMERICAN State Department. I don’t sport excessive amounts of American nationalism but I do hate when anyone, traveler or not, makes a disparaging comment about the United States yet snags an internship that most students can only dream about or emulates American fashion or way of life. Granted, Eaves comes to the conclusion that diplomatic life isn’t for her after a stint in Pakistan but I repeat, most American college students would kill for the chance to intern at the State Department.
At least through her writing, Eaves spends more time philosophically waxing about the men in her life and the meaning of life than expounding more upon the place she is living in or visiting.
“I’d left Justin in the middle of love, tearing out the stitches of a seam. The threads were loose inside me, sickening me, like a shifting deck at sea. I was out of money. I’d let the time limit on my return ticket to Vancouver pass by. I wondered how I could have screwed up so badly when I was only 24.”
I read that and wondered how a 24 year old who supposedly is so worldly and smart could sound so whiny.
But the book wasn’t all bad…well, the bulk of it was since I just couldn’t stand Eaves’ writing persona. The travel experience I found most interesting to read about was her study abroad adventure in Cairo, Egypt especially with the madness and bloodshed that is going on there. But the pages about Egypt were one of the few times in the entire memoir where Eaves didn’t sound like she was trying to impress people by being someone she wasn’t. She was just writing as a college age student in a world where female life is difficult and for a foreign female, nearly impossible:
“I could drape my body in fabric, but I remained visibly female and foreign. I couldn’t eliminate my height, my light skin, or my blond hair, or all the things I took so for granted that I forgot they marked me: the backpack for my books, the natural fabrics, the engineered shoes.”
“As it sunk in that the deluge wouldn’t stop, my initial energy dissipated and panic set in.”
The above lines reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Cairo Time, in which the character Juliette is followed and harassed by a group of men until she escapes into the refuge of a tailor shop. However, Eaves’ sensible realization of her “position” in Egypt is completely thrown out the window when she travels to Yemen because it was something students were told not to do.
I’ve come across this type of traveler in the Web 2.0 world and Eaves is (or perhaps was since she is older now and hopefully more mature) one of them-those that have such a disdain for the structured life and yet in many ways act like bums. I’d love to travel more frequently than I do…okay a lot more frequently…but I would never give up nice material comforts like a safe and clean hotel, “well-rounded meals,” and having more than two pairs of underwear just so that my wanderlust habit can be fed.
I hadn’t read a travel memoir in months so I’m disappointed that this one turned out to be such a letdown.