Book Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

by Kirsten Hubbard

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: March 13th 2012
Rating: Time to get on a plane

Wanderlove is the story of seventeen-year-old Bria, who is in that all important summer between high school and college, and decides to go on a trip to Central America with Global Vagabonds.  She does it as an act of rebellion against her super douche ex-boyfriends. Almost immediately she starts to chafe at the tour groups structure and eventually peels off from the group to backpack with a brother and sister that she meets in Guatemala. The trip she planned was not the trip she needed.

One thing that the characters in the book talk about is the different ways to traveling. I have traveling in pretty much every way possible. I’ve backpacked, stayed in a hostel, been on a guided tour, splurged on luxury and went bare bones. The backpackers in this book always seems to look down on other kinds of tourists. It was frustrating to me but Bria does point out the hypocrisy.  One of my favorite things about Bria as a character is that she confronts people when things bother her. I am however in complete agreence with all of Rowan’s travel rules. I just don’t think that you have to backpack to understand them or live by them.

I liked this book more for the ideas that it explores than for the story or characters. Bria, Starling, Rowen and even Jack all seem to be based on archetypes of the people that you meet while traveling.  You can tell that the author has been around the traveling block before. Wanderlove also reminded me of and made me think about my own love story and how closely it is tied to travel. We met in Germany, were engaged in Paris, married in Bali, and had our first home together in China. This book reminded me how much I associate travel with falling and being in love.

One thing that is implied but not discussed: There are people who you can travel with and people who you are friends with.  Those two things don’t always overlap.  While almost everyone that you travel with end up being a friend, not every friend is someone that you can travel with.  Travelling is pretty intense and when you are sharing a room you tend to be spending 24 hours a day together.  Energy levels, sleep and eating habits and spending expectations all have to be balanced. 

It was Bria’s inner thoughts, writings, and drawings that hold interest rather than the plot.  So much of what she says or thinks is relatable. I remember feeling like that.  I remember trying to figure it out (still working on it BTW) It is clear that Hubbard understands that the real journey takes place inside.  Every place that you visit challenges set ideas that you have about how the world works.  You become uncomfortable because your values (which are so intrinsic that you are hardly aware of them) are being tested.  You before more flexible.  Bria slowly starts to understand that the physical journey is nothing compared to the internal journey.

Wanderlove was a solid hot for me.  It made me think about and remember the aspects of travel that I most value.  The writing is strong.  The descriptions of Central America were vivid enough that getting there has been pushed way up the list (the list in case you are wondering includes pretty much everywhere). If you are a traveler, like the idea of traveling or hope to travel someday this is the book for you.

From Goodreads:

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.