Book Review: Be There Now – Travel Stories From Around the World
January 28, 2013 § 1 Comment
Every collection of essays about personal travel attempts to capture the spirit of a place, domestic or foreign, in imagery and language that reveals a sense of discovery. In Be There Now: Travel Stories From Around the World, the writers accomplish this and more because each essay, mostly brief in length, also take the journey inside, where questions of self-identity arise. The result is an anthology of vivid travel pieces that capture the exterior world and offer a vivid sense of personal reflection. Travel is a way to see a new and different world, and in doing so, we ourselves can be transformed. Editor Julie Rand has selected essays that easily capture this changing sense of who we are.
In her essay, “Dia de los Muertos,” Kathe Kokolias chronicles her journal to the day of the dead festivities in rural Mexico. Kelly Hayes-Raitt captures the heartbreaking desperation of war-weary Iraqi refugees in Syria. A dramatic encounter with a bear in Shannon Huffman Polson’s “Alaska” is about both terror and beauty, and is a profound piece of writing. Frank Izaguirre’s “A Trembling Voice” captures the heroic but often futile attempt to save turtles from poachers and extinction in Costa Rica. Irene Morse writes of gorillas in Rwanda with insight and awe. In Katherine Horrigan’s “Treks,” a climbing experience in Katmandu becomes a zenlike lesson in the fragility of life itself after the sudden death of a guide.
The collection also offers essays about stateside journeys. In “The Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland),” Dina Kucera pens the most hilarious and certainly stageworthy essay in the collection, using caustic humor and perfect comic timing to capture the meaning of family. Trendle Ellwood’s unusual and insightful “Virtual Travel” celebrates internet surfing and armchair journeys via Google map. Lynn Pinkerton’s “Open Eye” describes a visit to painter Georgia O’Keefe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Seeing O’Keefe’s world up close, Pinkerton has an epiphany. “I found myself intrigued and inspired by the idea that she instinctively knew that the search for truth and beauty does not require a full tank of gas or a passport. It only requires a willing presence and an open eye.”
Pinkerton’s quote captures the elemental purpose and reward of travel. This collection, so diverse and enjoyable, encourages the willing reader to experience a variety of beauties and truths.
Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Texas.