Before embarking on my 340-day traveling adventure, I was beyond nervous. Not only do most students not study abroad for a complete year, but they definitely don't do so alone. Most programs are large, it is nearly expected that you will know at least one or two people… the Chile program, on the other hand was only in it's second semester. And so I flew out of JFK airport with 9 other strangers, got to know them for a month in Ecuador and then met the other 3 once we reached our destination in Santiago.
This personal challenge to meet new people, new friends, in a completely unfamiliar setting is what led me to pick up Alice Steinbach's novel, Without Reservations: The Travel of an Independent Woman. Before purchasing I noted that I loved the delicate cover and genuine character. What I didn't realize, was how much warm nostalgia the travel book & memoir would evoke as Steinbach wanders through European cities for months on end without a true agenda.
Those familiar with Paris, London, Oxford, and various Italian cities won't miss the surface descriptions of those lively and dynamic places. However, those of whom are less experienced as European travelers, may feel as lost as Steinbach in the beginning of the novel.
An overworked journalist with a Pulitzer-prize, she begins with a bout self-reflecting boredom. She is clearly accomplished, her children have grown, and she finds herself bored with her habitual and uninspiring days. She uses travel as her time “to take chances. To have adventures [and] to see if I could still hack it on my own, away from the security of work, friends and an established identity.”
She truly gives herself time to rediscover her passion and her zest for life, her joie de vivre, if you will. This alone is relatable to most women who are expected to balance the role of caregiver with a successful career and happy home, but as a reader from a younger generation, I was also able to resonate with her honest insecurities which she overcomes daily. Furthermore, the postcards she sends to herself, which begin each chapter, encompass a sentimental piece of advice or memory for the reader and Steinbach alike.
If you're looking for to read the story of an adventurous traveler, you may be disappointed with her calm yet pleasant international experiences. However, if a light read of a warm journey of emotion is your cup of tea, then I'd recommend you pick this up. As you slowly but steadily make your way through this beautifully written narrative, the jet-setter on a home-locale break will surely be able to find a place of peaceful travel contentment.