Friday, January 7, 2011

Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World by Seth Stevenson

Grounded: My Down to Earth Journey Around the World by Seth Stevenson
Reviewed by Chris, Librarian at Bridgewater

Let's get the basic premise out of the way: Seth Stevenson loves to travel, but hates to fly. Flying, in his mind, is like a slow, hellish teleportation, where you get from one place to the other, but experience nothing in between. (Think of the narrator in Fight Club: you wake up at O'Hare; you wake up at LaGuardia; you wake up at Logan.) On what can only be described as a whim, Stevenson and his girlfriend decide to put their lives entirely on hold -- quitting their jobs, breaking their lease, and putting their possessions in storage -- in order to take a trip entirely around the world, crossing each line of longitude and the equator, without ever once subjecting themselves to the horror of air

They start the trip with only the vaguest of ideas: travel across the Atlantic on a container ship, and cross Asia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad; besides those two definites, the rest is played by ear. They use cars, buses, even bicycles, to fulfill their goal.

Stevenson is a Gen-X snarker, and spends a decent amount of time badmouthing his fellow travelers and countrymen; further, any language issues are mostly handwaved, so either he speaks 17 languages or just doesn't care. Finally, money never seems to be an issue for the couple; the exorbitant costs of some of the travel is simply written off, and the stresses of returning back to everyday life are summarized by "[she] got a new law firm job, and I started writing for magazines again”. Despite said flaws, I enjoyed the book. I like his writing style (I’ve read some of his magazine articles previously), and my eyes were certainly opened to the romance, as it were, of travelling via container ship versus the cozy confinement of a cruise ship.