Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Top Travel Read: Grounded by Seth Stevenson

I have a confession to make: when I read for fun, I don't read about travel. I tend to go with novels or compelling books on history (Antonia Fraser and David McCullough--you make me smile).

But the other week I found myself laughing out loud, and furiously flipping through the pages, of a travel book I had to read for work. I was interviewing the author Seth Stevenson for our radio show and had grudgingly begun his book about three-days before the interview in preparation.

A travel memoir, Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World is the tale of Stevenson and his partner Rebecca's circumnavigation around the globe, accomplished entirely on the surface of the planet. Though in many cases it would have been less expensive and quicker, they made the decision to forgo airline travel altogether and embarked on a romp that rivals "Around the World in 80 Days".

Grounded is everything most travel memoirs are not. It has suspense, as the problems inherent in getting from continent to continent by boat nearly force the couple to abandon their quest at several points. There's a laugh on nearly every page. And Stevenson has a wonderful way of interweaving his personal tale with history--both the history of the places they visit and the modes of transportation they use--that opens up the story and gives it greater interest. I feel like I know a lot more about international commerce thanks to his explanation of how cargo ships have reworked the way nations trade with one another...and that's a good thing!

Best of all, the book introduced me to a number of places that I haven't visited yet and am now eager to see. If you're still wrestling with your summer travel plans, this could be a terrific resource to peruse. It's one of those rare travel books that truly opens up the world. I urge you to pick up a copy.

(And just in case you're wondering: I have no connection to Stevenson, nor does the publishing company that publishes the Pauline Frommer guidebooks. I'm just a fan.)

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