THE FINAL DAYS OF OUR TRIP

Down, down, down again

Turns out it is much (MUCH!) easier to get down from a volcano than it is to hike up it. Luke told us we’d take about 8 hours to get down, but with the help of a walking stick (OMG, I really need to get one for my next hike, because I am seriously loving it) we sped down the mountain like crazy people and managed to do it in just five. Insanely quick as we were going though, the porters still managed to outrun us in their flip-flops. Guess they know the mountain much better than we do.

After a few stumbles onto my butt – and uttering Dutch curses that the only other Dutch couple on the mountain were conveniently able to catch – we got to the end of the park. Looking at our grimy and grinning faces, all we wanted to do, was take a nice long hot shower and not walk for a few more days.

Sadly, after getting to our hotelroom (after a bumpy ride) we found out the shower didn’t run hot except for a few minutes. Resigning myself to a cold shower, I simply figured being clean would be worth it. I gritted my teeth, took a nice long cold shower and spend the rest of the day sleeping and reading books and walking as little as possible. Nobody warns you about this, but as long as you keep walking, your muscles don’t ache too much. However, sitting still for a bit and then walking is like asking a very old invalid person to run a marathon – not going to happen. Oh well, it was all worth it.

Final day

And really, that is how we spend our final two days. Lazing about. 

Well that and taking a death-man’s ride to the airport – apparently if you tell someone on Lombok you are going to miss your flight if they don’t hurry up, they take it upon themselves to speed down a mountain, past children getting out of school and walking on the road and past anything that lives or breathes in the vicinity of the main road in a way that makes you pray to any god to please, please, please make it to the airport in one piece even if you are an atheist like me.

Also, lazing about really isn’t our style. So, aching muscles not withstanding, we explored the area of Kuta on Bali – not worth it, far too many tourists and all the attendant nuisances – and went surfing in waves far to big for us. And to end the holiday in a perfect manner, we met up with some friends who were only just starting their’s.

Getting home

Going back home, is never any fun. The amazing trip we took, was totally worth it, but I still wish it could’ve lasted longer. Our trip home made me forget that for a few days (waiting at the airport for 2 hours, then flying for 4 hours, then getting from one airport in the city to the next one before having to wait another 6 hours at the second airport only the proceed to fly for an infinite number of hours will do that to you! – thank god for good books like “the light between oceans“) but looking back already makes me nostalgic about this trip. It was a once in a life-time experience that I hope to repeat many times during my time on the beautiful planet.

Looking back

I cannot believe it has already been 5 months since we got back. And even though we have had plenty to deal with in that time – interesting internships, the holidays and, not to forget, buying a house and moving to a different city – I am already craving a new big adventure. High time to start planning the next one!

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS – M.L. Stedman

IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT I HAVE NO WAY OF FIGURING OUT HOW A STORY IS POSSIBLY GOING TO HAVE AN HAPPY ENDING FOR ALL THE CHARACTERS I LOVE, but this book was a very happy exception to that.

Now, I am not saying that every book has to have a happy ending, certainly some books fail to provide an unhappy ending when really the story calls for it. Waving a magic wand to make a white rabbit appear who makes everything all right is not my idea of a good story.

However, with this book, I so desperately wanted a happy ending for all characters involved, but I just couldn’t see how!

The story tells the tale of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne who live on a remote island between to converging oceans to keep up the lighthouse. Tom is a man who has managed to survive WO I because he had strict rules about what is good and bad. At some point though, he has to compromise his rules to provide Isabel with the child she so longs for. However, as things start to unravel, he is torn between the immense love he has for his wife and his life’s mission of doing what is right.

As you may guess, this book deals with the ramification of the actions of each person that are all completely understandable – the reason why there doesn’t appear to be a way to have a happy ending for all characters. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that you genuinely start to care for all the main characters and wish for them to find a way. Whether or not they do, you’ll just have to find out by reading this beautiful, eloquent, amazing book – or watch the movie, although since I haven’t seen it yet, I have no idea if it follows the same route and of course, SHAME ON YOU for wanting watch the movie but not read the book!

My favourite quote: “The law’s the law, but people are people”.  As a socially engaged lawyer, how could I not love this rendition of a difficult truth!

 

 

 

HIKING RINJANI – DAY 2

Midnight wake-up call

At 2 a.m. the alarm rings and I am not feeling at all well – not only because it’s the middle of the freaking night, but because my nausea is back. I try to fake a smile, determined not to let it show and succeed for a little while.

The sounds of waking tourists are increasing as are the sounds of the porters who are laughing and cooking us lazy tourists some kind of breakfast. Ours consists of grilled sandwiches with jam and is very, VERY sweet. I try to force it down as best I can and then Erik remarks I look white as a sheet. I just have time to grab my empty teacup, but not enough time to answer him – again I am throwing up. Jeez, this holiday, I seem to do that more than I have for the past couple of years combined!

Afterwards, I feel shaky but fine and as determined as ever to reach the top. Luke tells me not to worry; he is unable to eat anything at this altitude either. I sort of doubt his remark as we are only at about 2400 m – not where I expect to be affected by the altitude-, but right now I’ll grasp at any straw to get going.

Up, up, up, yet again

And then we are on the move. It is quiet and pitch black as we head up the mountain. I stand still for a bit, taking in the crazy amount of stars that I can see. I have never been this high up, this far away from any light source and this much enthralled by the sheer amount of stars looking down on us. It makes me feel tiny and insignificant, but very happy to be able to see and live this moment.

I look back and the hundreds of thousands of stars are mirrored back in the couple of dozens of lights trailing the same path we just took. We are all united in getting ourselves to the top for the sunrise and I can’t help but feel connected to everyone. United in our common goal.

A few minutes later though, I am thrown back into my own little self. The journey up is arduous as we are trying to get up slopes consisting of volcanic pebbles. With every step we take, we have to allow for a bit of sliding back down, making it seem as if we are not making any progress at all. It is hard work and all I can do to keep going is keep going on and not pay attention to anything else.

We pass people panting in exhaustion and I feel like I can do this for a while. Not feeling as bad as they look, you know. And for a while I can.

But the cold – it’s about 5° C out – the altitude and my exhaustion are creeping up on me. I start counting my steps as I did in Dinant. To 100, to 50, to 10. I sit down, catch my breath, try again. 100, 50, 10, 10, 10. It’s so hard to keep going, but if I want to see the sunrise I have to. 20 Steps, then 20 more, just 20 more. I sink to my knees, too tired to even turn around and sit properly. I catch my breath, crawl up on my hands and knees. 20 steps – crawls -, rest with my head in my hands, 20 more crawls, catch my breath, 20 painstakingly slow crawls. God, why am I doing this?

Erik tries to cajole me into walking, into sitting, into getting up from the cold ground. I feel like crying, but I can’t. I am too tired, too weak and too stupid for thinking I could actually do this. People are passing me, time is passing me and I realise I will miss the sunrise. Weak stupid girl that I am, I am also depriving Erik from his sunrise view. Crying I tell him: “go on without me, I can see the sunrise perfectly from here, just leave me and go and enjoy the view”.

He scuffs, of course he is not going without me – and I love him so much for it! Later he tells me I was not the only one having trouble. A few meters from me the British guy is lying face down in the path and all around me people are struggling. But in my misery, all I can see is that I am not able to get to the top on time.

Summiting

Just when it seems like the darkness will never end, the sun starts to infuse the night with the slightest hint of a beautiful dawn. On the eastern horizon a small strip of orange appears and the night seems incrementally less dark. This light, for me, at this time, is a life-giver. It makes me get up and try again.

I stand up straight, finally accept the arms of Erik and Luke to lean on until the light really begins to show its self. It’s as if the sunlight brings back my energy, my will and my determination to get to the top.

Just then another British girl gives me a shout-out: “come on, you are fucking insane for getting here, you can make it! Here, use my stick” and giving me her walking stick, she climbs further up. This small act of kindness, is all I needed and I get going. Going, going, going.

And even though the sun is already up when I reach the top – and team U.K. has beaten us to it – I am overcome with happiness. Diving into Erik’s arms as I start crying – again –, I immediately know that this was all worth it. The beauty is all the more profound for being so hard to attain. I stare out at the view, my first ever view that is this high up and was this hard to get to and has left me with such an amazing feeling of strength and resilience. And it is totally addictive!

We spend some time at the top, gazing serenely at the view, resting, then taking the mandatory pictures – need proof! – and start back down. We still have a long day ahead of us.

Down, down, down we go

Getting down is much easier and way more fun than going up. We sort of slide-glide-ski down and it is only now that I realise how much ground we have covered. The dark not only blanketed my resolve, but also the amount of time and distance we travelled. Strange things.

We get down and have a small breakfast. Then we go further down into the crater. I have not really had time to rest or sleep and as we are taking big steps down big boulders, I can feel that being this tired messes with my mountain-goat abilities. I fear I may fall and crack my skull open and it is this fear – that I am unable to shake – that is making me clumsy and slow.

Thank god for the hour we have for lunch. We are nowhere near where we need to be, but Luke decides we’ll have lunch here anyway, as we are progressing so slowly. I fall asleep within minutes and after about an hour wake up to the smell of another curry. I eat a bit – still not very hungry – and then I feel ready to go again.

We are making much better time now and we have some time to get to know Luke better. We learn about his family and farming in this arid region. More importantly we learn about his love for the mountain and his fiancée and how much he enjoys being a guide; getting people to the top. He jokes how I thought I was not going to make it, but he knew I was a “strong woman”; that could do it. I can tell he rather likes this joke as he laughs every time we say something about it.

This young man, who I didn’t trust enough to lean on, turns out to be a very strong and rather mature guide. Ready to get married like is normal in Indonesia at his age and at the same time embracing the new concept of leave no trace on the mountain – which no other guide seems to be doing. It feels weird to say, but in him I can see the blending of cultures in the best sense. We are very happy with our guide.

Hot springs

The one thing that does really surprise me, is that fact that Luke is afraid of water and doesn’t know how to swim. Coming from a country that has less of a coast than Lombok, but where everyone learns to swim at an early age, this takes me by surprise. I can’t believe he is so anxious about swimming, that he won’t even sooth his aching muscles in the hot spring we get to later in the afternoon.

 

Neither Erik nor I have any doubts about it: this water is heavenly – and surprisingly hot, although that shouldn’t be a surprise, given the fact we are swimming in a hot spring. We relax en swim and wash ourselves – heaven – and after just a little while we have to get going again.

We hike along the lake at the base of the crater to the other side and then start our second ascend of the day. Tiredness is starting to set in, but knowing we have a dinner and a bed – not to mention a beautiful sunset – waiting for us – makes us push our legs a little longer and a little harder one more time.

Up seven stairs

Luke tells us we only have seven more stairs to go. We eat some more cookies – SUGAR! CHOCOLATE! ENERGY! – and start this final stretch. The stairs are not really stairs but big ascending boulders about half my size that we have to scramble up. Panting we go and count down. Just six more to go, COME ONE, just five more, WE CAN DO THIS, four more, YES YES, three more, GRRR OK, GO, two more, OH MY GOD, just one.

And that one turns out to be bigger than all the other ones combined. By now, even Erik is having a tough time. All we can do is keep scrambling, no longer waiting for each other (I am ashamed to say, Erik is better at waiting for me than I am for him) but simply pushing, pushing, pushing ourselves one last bit until finally we reach our tent.

It is already in the shade and being completely covered in new sweat – so much for our clean bodies after the swim – we get cold quickly. We layer up again and walk just a little further to enjoy the sunset and the final rays of sunlight.

I cannot believe how long we have been up already and how long we have been climbing up and down this mountain. There were times where I felt certain I was not going to make it, but as with so many exertion: the mind wants to give up way before your body does. Today was a beautiful reminder of that fact, although I still realise I do have to listen to my body. My fear going down is testament to how much you need to rest at times, to get yourself safely back up.

And the rewards for all this hard work are amazing. In just 24 hours we have seen two beautiful sunsets and the most beautiful and amazing sunrise I have ever seen. Nature provides its own show and it is so much more rewarding to watch then any adventure series on Netflix. The aching in my muscles tells me I have worked hard to earn this peace and quiet and beauty and again I feel that this is addictive. This is what I want more of in my life! Now I just have to find a way to do that in my own flat pancake of a country…

THE WILD TRUTH – Carine McCandless

I’D BOUGHT THIS BOOK FOR ERIK AS INTO THE WILD IS ONE OF HIS FAVOURITE MOVIES, BUT WAS SECRETLY LOOKING FORWARD TO READING IT MYSELF. So, during our illness in Malysia I started to escape into the world of the sister of a man who inspired many vagabonds.

For anyone who is not that into independent movies turned into huge box office hits: into the wild tells the story of Alexander Supertramp a.k.a. Christopher McCandless; a young man who cuts all ties with his family to travel vagabond-style through the U.S. and challenges himself to become self-sufficient in the wilderness of Alaska, wishing to shed the false self. The challenge proves fatal, but in his death, Christopher McCandless inspires scores of people.

This book is the one where Carine McCandless aims to uncover the wild truth behind the reasons why her brother decided to cut himself loose completely. Sadly, the book disappoints. For anyone who has read the book “into the wild” by Jon Krakauer and seen the movie, the book contains little to no surprises. I never felt the parents of the McCandless children were portrayed very kindly or that is was a surprise that a young, ambitious and strong-willed man should want to be free from them. The only surprise: how long his parents felt a victim of the actions of Christopher.

Not bringing any surprises and really, detailing way more about the turbulent life of Carine herself, I felt the book was falsely marketed as being about the aftermath of Christopher’s death. Furthermore, Carine herself doesn’t appear to me to be a very likeable woman (as she portrays herself in the book that is). She appears to be a strange mix of being stubborn, pushing others to be like her and feeling victimised by other people’s action that sometimes have nothing specific to do with her.

Again, no favourite quote as I couldn’t remember any from the book and… I wouldn’t recommend this book to begin with.

 

 

 

HIKING RINJANI – DAY 1

“So, after hiking for 7 hours we’ll go to sleep, get up at 2 a.m. hike to the top, see the sunset, hike down to our camp, have breakfast, hike down the volcano and up it again at which point we will sleep and hike down to the village for another 5 hours and we’ll be done”. I grin at the camera, fully believing this is doable, but there is an edge to my smile. We have been sick not two weeks before and we are going to attempt to hike gravelly terrain for three straight days. Sounds like a great plan! Regardless, I am SO looking forward to this!

Arrival

A few hours before filming my own version of 3-op-reis, we arrived at Sembalun from where we would begin our hike. Halfway from the beach we’d been put in a new car with a driver that didn’t speak any of the languages we do – gotta learn to trust people on the road – and apparently, neither did the hotel owner, or concierge or however he was. Both men seemed very confused about us. “You from bookingcom?” they’d asked and I had assumed we’d be fine.

However, they kept looking at our papers, clearly trying and failing to read them and sounding very concerned. I decide to call the local number of the hiking company to see if everything is in order. She assures me we are at the right place on the right day and that our guide will meet up with us soon. I ask her to explain to our driver and hotel-man what we are doing here and to ask if anything is the matter. 5 Minutes of “aaaaah, ooooh ok” of the hotel-man and after him the taxi-driver, we are happily shown to our room – without explanation of what exactly was the matter. Our room is very basic and by now we are really trying not to be worried about the next day.

As we are having dinner – at the hotel, the hotel-man was sort of concerned about us walking off – the guide appears. This small Lombok 19-year-old is called Luke (really Lukeman, but Luke is easier for tourists) and still has stiff legs from finishing the hike today. I am not at all sure about him, but will quickly learn to trust his considerable ability in the days to come. He explains to us what we are about to do (the same story I repeat on camera – always wanted to present for “3-op-reis”) and then leaves us to sleep and get enough rest for the coming days.

Up up up we go

The next morning, we rise early to a rising sun to pack our day bags – we’ll just have to trust our big backpacks are indeed brought to the next hotel – strap on our hiking shoes and get started. We have a small breakfast and then Luke arrives so we can finally get started.

Like real hikers we sign the register – how I feel like a woman who hikes now! Realising of course that real hiker women probably don’t get this exited about signing a register – and realise we will be amongst the oldest people climbing the mountain. I wonder why that is. Is hiking for young college students, is perhaps Lombok more suited for young adventurous people? I’ll probably never know and don’t have much time to consider it, because after just one kilometre more we enter the gates of the national park and our hike up mount Rinjani has officially begun.

 

The first couple of hours we ascent at a gentle pace. The heat makes me sweat and I have to work out a bit, but this is great fun. After about an hour, my mind stops it’s incessant brooding, thinking, talking, chattering, worrying, exclaiming over every detail and settles into the momentum of our walk, gently ambling along, but not proving the rollercoaster maze it sometimes is.

We make good time and as we are overtaking the carriers (men of all ages, smoking like crazy and carrying up loads of up to 40 kilo’s on bamboo sticks while wearing flip-flops) we shout out “selemat bagi, apa kabar? Baik baik” – good afternoon, how are you, good good – and they laugh with us. Erik jokes he will beat them to the top, which they think very funny. A little while later we will have an hour lunch break and these man laughingly pass us again, shouting the same phrases and making it appear as some sort of mountain conversation we can all enjoy.

At lunch, we meet another couple that we have a lot of fun with. Tom and Sophie are two Brits who have decided to do this hike in their nikes (insert, walking down the street – mountain - with my nikies on). We tease one another and decide to make it a race to the top. It’s a friendly race and we will overtake one another quite often during the next few days.

Up up up even steeper, we go

After lunch, things start to get harder. The ascent becomes steeper and often I feel like am walking stairs made out of tree roots. The ground is dry dust and with every step we take a flurry of it takes flight. That sounds beautiful enough if you imagine sunlight slanting through it like pictures on Instagram will show you, but in reality it blocks my nose and because I have to use my hands to clime the tree root ladders so often, I soon have a dirty face that makes the porters laugh when they see me struggling along.

Erik meanwhile, appears not to have any trouble at all; his beautiful strong legs carrying him up the mountain like he was meant to do this. He encourages me to push myself and manages to make the porters chant my name in encouragement. “Addy, Addy, Addy!” It brings me to the top, but nearly in tears that I do not have the energy to spill, so I ask them to please stop. Let me get into my own little corner of misery that I know I will only escape by pushing myself for another hour, another half our, another fifteen minutes, another ten, five.

Getting to the crater rim

And then we’ve made it to the rim and although the struggle is not forgotten, it is forgiven, because this moment is already worth it. We get to our tent – thankfully already set up by our amazing porters (I am clearly not yet as tough as I’d like to believe) and have a rest, waiting for team U.K. to come to our tent (they beat us to the rim) so we can enjoy a well earned drink and come what we really came to do; enjoy the amazing view.

We can look straight into the volcano, seeing the lake and the tiny – well, seemingly tiny of course – active volcano in it. The mountain we are climbing continues on the other side and we catch glimpses of it through the deck of clouds that is passing us by as the sun is setting. I feel like I am in a kind of heaven, where I can nearly touch the clouds in much the same way as seeing them from a plane. The speed at which these clouds move up and down the mountain is staggering and only now am I fully appreciating why people always say that the weather up here – or up any mountain really – can change in a matter of minutes.

These clouds are bloody cold though, so I quickly pull on all the warm clothes I’ve brought, Erik no longer laughing at what he thought was ridiculous to carry with us all the way from Amsterdam, through Bangkok, Koh Tao, Kao Sok Lake, Georgetown, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bali/Ubud.

Dinner is a lovely curry with white rice and as I am taking a rather spicy bite a look through the gap in the clouds all I can think is “this is what I came here for; and it is perfect”. Feeling tired, but in a good way I am happy to see a view that will escape many people – conveniently forgetting that we are up here with about a hundred other people, like most nights during the hiking season.

Promise

I make a promise to myself then and there. I will make it to the top and all the way down and I will remember this feeling so back home I can find ways to incorporate this feeling in my normal life. I will find new ways of exerting myself and finding places of beauty like this – needless to say, by now that promise has already proven difficult to keep in normal ordinary life.

 

After dinner, it gets dark – and cold – quickly and we get into our thin sleeping bags, dirty but unable to get clean, so simply accepting the fact we’ll be dirty for another two days. I am scared the sleeping bags won’t provide enough warmth in the predicted 5° C night, but as I am reading my book – yes, I brought one with me on a hike, screw the tiny increase in weight – I can almost feel it radiate the warmth back to me. Putting in earplugs against the sound of the porters having a party and pulling my cap and hoody low over my head, I fall into a deep but fitful sleep. At 2 a.m. we’ll be awoken to start our ascent to the top!

Keep posted for day 2...

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

A GREAT HOLIDAY READ.

So, I am the type of person who will bring three books on a backpacking holiday (the Wild Truth; One step at the time; and Guantánamo Diary – of which I only finished the first) and then decides she needs that one book standing in a shop window that suddenly speaks to her. So, logging around four books would be the price I paid for reading this thriller. A price well worth it.

During the first 12-hour flight to Bangkok, I read about half the book and although the starting was slow, I was completely hooked by the time we landed. The story centres around three women who in some way, are all connected to the case of a missing woman. Neither of these women are very likeable or even reliable in the telling of their tales, but I still felt like they were more real than many women I’ve read about in so-called “chicklits”. They are women with faults and struggles and the consequences of their actions are not sugar-coated.

Combine this with a thrilling whodunit and you have the perfect holiday read. Because I could spot who’d commited the crime about halfway through the book, it wasn’t as exciting to finish as it was to start, but still good enough to read whilst enjoying the sunshine on the paradise of Koh Tao.

All in all, not a book for quotes (the writing itself was not that amazing), but an enjoyable read during your holidays!

 

 

 

SPECTACLES – Sue Perkins

ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE – OH HOW I LOVE TO HEAR THOSE WORDS. For anyone unfamiliar with the phenomenon of The Great British Bake Off, these words are uttered by the two presenters of a baking match. Now, perhaps a book written by – admittedly – something of a madwoman who makes a living by pronouncing these words in the most random way she can think of only to proceed with eating the confections the contestants make, is not something that appeals to you. It does however appeal to me.

My sense of humour can be a little bit odd. For instance, I don’t particularly like Monty-Piton-kind-of-humour, or American-pie-kind-of-humour, nor do I enjoy too-absurdist-humour, female-degrading humour – really, that should be outlawed for most often promoting rape-culture – or even the kind of humour where the send a bunch of party people on a free drinking holiday to see what kind of shenanigans they get themselves into. Perhaps I am not someone who particularly likes humour even if I do like to laugh.

What I do enjoy, are deadpan funny comments that may be farfetched or so up in front of your face that they are almost to obvious to make. And baking innuendo’s, but that is a very narrow form of humour. Needless to say, but Sue Perkins possesses this type of humour in spades, buckets and even baking tins. The only question was, if she would be able to provide this kind of humour in writing as much as she does onscreen.

And she is. I have laughed myself silly over the stories and comments in this book. The book itself is presented as a memoir, but it sure is the funniest memoir I have ever read. She tells the story of her life, the happy and sad parts with equal parts humility – as in, so completely over the top unashamedly pretentious that you know she doesn’t mean it – deadpan humour and complete honesty – as far as the punchline allows of course.

All in all, if you want an in-depth expose of miss Perkins – the person, you will not find it in this book. If, however, you want an thoroughly enjoyable read that at times will make you laugh out loud, you simply have to read this book!

My favourite quote is about something I can greatly relate to: “My job is steal and eas as much food as I can. And I can eat a lot. My motto: ‘If it’s at head height or lower I will eat it.’ Above head height, I won’t touch it. I won’t climb for food. I’m not desperate”.

 

 

 

THE BITTERSWEET PARADISE – Iris Hannema

WHAT A NAG! Really, I thought this book would be a fun read about a Dutch woman traveling the Pacific Islands, regaling her adventures. Of course, the title should have tipped me off, but the balance between bitter and sweet was completely lost in this narrative.

Iris Hannema is a Dutch traveller and travel-journalist. After a rather hard journey through Eas-Afrika, Iris decided to try and find “Paradise”. Looking at a map, she decided to see if perhaps it was located in the midst of the blue where the islands are so small they don’t show up on most maps (haven’t we all gazed at that patch of blue, imagining the aquamarine colour of the sea and the intense whiteness of the beaches at some point?). She decides to go for it and write a book about it.

Now, I would be the first person to admit that travelling is not always easy or even fun. There are days when you are exhausted from just being on route, the foreignness of the culture, the way you stand out in a crowd and are consequently gaped at (if nothing more obtrusive). The weather can be oppressively warm or numbingly cold or just annoyingly wet. Transportation doesn’t show up, attraction do not live up to what you want to see and other tourists can make you feel ashamed for being one as well.

However, the truthful story in my opinion, is that we travel for a reason. That reason, weather it is eating foreign food, pushing our limits, seeing new cultures or simply satisfying our curiosity about what it is like someplace else, must a least have a positive component. Otherwise, why would you keep travelling?

This question is one that Iris poses herself, but doesn’t answer. She doesn’t even really bother to try and come up with an explanation.

Furthermore, she appears not to see anything positive. The book is filled with story after story about why travelling is not easy or enjoyable. And although I can relate to some complaints (I don’t like guesthouses where dog-hairs are covering my bed either), others I find snobbish or naïve (yes, people living on tropical islands are not as active as you are during the day, deal with it, but don’t pretend to be superior because of it). Other times, I just find I hard to believe that truly nothing fun or hopeful or in any way positive can be found.

All in all, I found myself rolling my eyes or sighing at yet another negative story that really wasn’t even all that bad too many times to call this book enjoyable. The only exception: the final chapter of the book. Here, due to personal circumstances, she manages to finally balance the sweet and the bitter. But to read a whole book just for those few pages… not worth it in my opinion.

My favourite quote then? It turns out this is a phrase by Lois Frankel that is quoted in the book: “All it takes is acting more like the woman you are capable of becoming than like the girl you were taught to be”. Thank you Lois Frankel!

WILD BY NATURE – SARAH MARQUIS

ALTHOUGH I SOURELY WANTED TO READ ABOUT THE ADVENTURES OF SARAH MARQUIS, THIS BOOK DID NOT PROVIDE THE INSIGHT I WISHED FOR. Sarah Marquis is a traveller and adventures who walked all the way from Syberia through Australia over the course of 3 years.

I had really wanted to read this book, feeling inspired just reading the backcover. While I was in London I finally found the book and bought it to read during my flight home (and a few beach days in the week after). I had thought to gain an inside into why she’d decided to walk all this way, the hardships she had faced and the ways in which it had changed her.

Although she does mention briefly her decision to start on this expedition no real insight is given. Nor does it become very clear during the story. This at times makes it hard to understand why she would continue to walk whilst she is clearly suffering. For me, this makes the book a bit of a let-down.

On the other hand, there are plenty of anecdotes that make the book an enjoyable read. She tells about the stoic Mongolians and the loud and intrusive Chinese she meets on the way (something I remember all to well from my trip there), with an understated humour that at times borders on cynicism.

The reason this book does not become one big whine-fest (as the bittersweet paradise was), is because Sarah Marquise knows her own weaknesses and tries to stay away from humans as much as she can while being truly grateful for every helpful person out there. Other than that, she describes details of beautiful landscapes that you can just picture yourself in.

Although not the best adventure book out there, I’d still recommend this book to anyone who is in need of a little escape into an adventure, but currently unable to go away herself.

If that doesn’t pull you in, perhaps my favourite quote will: “being scared won’t serve you well under any circumstances, so you might as well strike this emotion from your list of options”. Curious to see why she could be scared and weather or not she managed to strike that option? Read the book!

 

 

 

ROOM – EMMA DONOGHUE

AN AMAZING BOOK DESPITE OF ITS CREEPY PREMISE – even though the premise was exactly why I hadn’t read the book when it first became big. I’d seen this book in the bookshop plenty of times and almost always picked it up. But reading about a woman and her son being locked up in a room and living through the eyes of a 5-year old just did not appeal to me. However, at some point I just couldn’t ignore my instincts of picking up this book any more and I started to read. That is when I got hooked!

*intermission: is anybody else seeing a pattern of me not wanting to read books until I have to and then loving them? – perhaps I should change this particular habit…

The book tells the story of Jack who lives with his mum in Room. Jack was born and raised in Room and it is his entire world. But when he turns five, things start to shift. Jack is a boy who is really smart in some aspects and ahead of his age, but sorely lacking in other aspects, making him vulnerable in ways that make you want to protect him.

Because the book is written from the perspective of Jack, not everything is told at once. Being an adult reading the book however, you can surmise what has happened to his mum. This discrepancy between what we know and what we think we know provides the perfect creepy atmosphere that fits the book.

Having said that, it’s important to note that the book itself is not always creepy. There are plenty of funny, sweet and downright heart-breaking moments in this book. Emma Donoghue manages to make you feel a part of the world she has created and all I wanted to do by the end of it, was make sure Jack and his mum would be ok and have the best life possible.

It is hard to say more about this book without spoiling the read, so I’ll just finish by saying that this really is a must-read!

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