Book Review of the Travel Book: Avoiding Prison & Other Noble Vacation Goals by Wendy Dale.
Bless her heart.
Young single woman goes abroad “seeking adventure” because her life is boring. She then meets a Kuwaiti guy in an airport hotel. You see, the Costa Rican authorities have his passport, and he has been stranded waiting for a wire transfer from his mom in order to get the money for a Visa. Of course he can’t have the money wired in his own name. Another person was supposed to help, but she stole his money. What would you do? Of course, you would start sleeping with him! Then you would spend weeks helping him out. Then a few weeks later the police would haul him off and you would find out that he was a big liar, he was from Trinidad in the country illegally, and he was a con man. Really? Who would’ve figured that out?
On your next trip to Costa Rica, you would go to jail visiting hours while your friend visited her boyfriend. Then you would meet a prisoner. Then you would go back to visit him. Again and again. Then you would fall in love. Then you would sell everything you own and move to Costa Rica. Then you would have conjugal visits with him in jail. Then you would spend months trying to get his name cleared. Then you would jump bail and flee across the border to Panama. Then you would move to Columbia (his home country) where you would find out that two of his family members are in jail overseas for being drug mules. Then you would find out that your boyfriend had been a drug mule before. Then (after you have run through all your savings) you go back to the U.S.A. briefly, and when you call your boyfriend, you find out he is at the airport, leaving on a drug drop off to Europe. (“Now that he was deprived of my influence, I worried about what he could get himself mixed up in.”)
I think I just gave away the whole book, which reads like a case study for a counseling psychology class. I found myself diagnosing all of the author’s issues, as she continually made bad decisions even though she knew they were bad decisions.
As poorly as she made decisions, she was an excellent storyteller. Like watching the hapless Homer Simpson, I kept wanting to find out what she would do next to get herself out of the previous dilemma. However, because her problems were self-induced, I had trouble relating to statements like “Travel is like the high drama of youth. It’s the best and worst at the same time. one minute you are flung to the depths of despair, the next, you feel the giddy, exaggerated joy of an adolescent.” Dear Wendy, you are doing it wrong. Travel should not include deep despair.
At the beginning of the book, two essays (one on visiting Beirut and one on visiting Cuba) could stand on their own. She is witty enough to turn a story about having a piece of fruit taken by the customs officer into a one-page-long Sedaris-like tale. But even in Cuba, the story is based around the dude she was shaking up with.
An entertaining memoir of a globetrekker, it falls short of being a travel book. I may even suggest another title. Wendy Dale is certainly Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.