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Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World Paperback – April 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Anyone familiar with Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days will already know the basic premise of Stephenson’s book: an around-the-world voyage in which we visit strange lands, meet unusual people, and have interesting adventures. Unlike Phileas Fogg, however, Stevenson and his traveling companion (his girlfriend, Rebecca) have no deadline: they can take as long as they want to make their way around the globe. But, like Fogg, they intend to stay earthbound the entire time (his balloon trip wasn’t on the original agenda), eschewing airplanes for cargo freighters, buses, bicycles, and other terrestrial forms of transportation. It’s a very entertaining story, told in a spirited, engaging style (the author is an experienced travel writer). While falling in the very contemporary category of “extreme travel,” this entertaining account manages to combine a hip modern approach with a charming nostalgic feel. A must for armchair travelers. --David Pitt

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While falling in the very contemporary category of "extreme travel," this entertaining account manages to combine a hip modern approach with a charming nostalgic feel. A must for armchair travelers. --Booklist

Stevenson's writing is full of charm and humor... In an age when everything has to be done yesterday, it's nice to know that there are still people wandering the globe who feel that getting somewhere could be more than half the fun. --Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594484422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594484421
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I'm a contributing writer for Slate. My work has also appeared in the New York Times, New York, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, and other wonderful (and less wonderful, and in some cases defunct) publications. I've received multiple Lowell Thomas awards from the Society of American Travel Writers, been excerpted three times in the Best American Travel Writing series, was nominated for a Digital National Magazine Award, and won the 2005 Online Journalism Award for commentary. I grew up in Brookline, Mass., graduated from Brown University and the Columbia Journalism School, and live in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I picked this book up because I love both traveling and reading about travel. The premise seemed excellent - "let's travel around the world without once setting foot on an airplane." As someone who flies a lot, I can understand the motivation.

At first I was intrigued by the nuances of alternative travel...how does one book passage on an ocean-going freighter??? These insights were interesting at first.

I didn't get a real sense of the wanderlust of the author and his mate, but rather got a sense that the motivation was...hey I have an idea for a book, let's use that as an excuse to travel.

No problem with that, until they get out on their adventure and set out to be the most anti-Will Rogers types I've come across in a long time. The author and his girlfirend set out to demonstrate that they never met a man (woman) they ever liked!

Much of the book is Mr. Stevenson attempting to demonstrate his humor and wit by denigrating everyone he meets. He & his mate make fun of the Russian girl announcing over the speaker on the Estonian ferry that a face-painting activity is about to begin - hilarious! Here's a fellow from the U.S., who more than likely doesn't speak Russian or Estonian, making fun of an employee offering a fun activity to children, and respite to their parents, in English. This is just the beginning, as he has insulting descriptions of everyone he meets...on Russian trains, on buses, on cruise ships ("assist me in ridiculing these fogeys" p.218 - even while accepting their hospitality). This author has a snarky attitude which I am certain he believes is clever and witty.

It's humorous to Google him and find him writing an article for Slate in 2006 discussing the "mean-spirited" Apple ad...
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Patrick McCormack VINE VOICE on August 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Seth Stevenson and his wife Rebecca are horrendous travellers.

This may seem like a stern judgment, but when you write an entire hackneyed, vapid book about your empty sneering travels, around the globe without an airplane (gasp!) -- you pretty much write about yourself, and invite judgment, or about people, culture, art, conversation, the world, and invite wonder.

He made the wrong choice. One gets the sense, reading this book, that the author and his wife have exactly zero ability to engage in or record interesting conversations with people they meet. They do not elicit interaction. They chunk down their world tour in great bites of sitting in trains and ferries. They never move much beyond the quotidian, drinking with various other travelers. They offer no insights, no percipient commentary on the world.

On this journey, the star couple are bruited about like a couple of suitcases, moved along the longitudes of the world higgledy-piggledy. You get the sense that the author NEVER has an interesting conversation to offer fellow travelers, that he is sort of taciturn. You get an NPR sense of sneering self-satisfaction.

At one point he is proud to be mistaken for a native German, and to have avoided white socks and shorts, being seen as a north american. Yet he is oblivious to the fact that he cannot speak the language, and that his worldliness is a matter of dressing himself in the right costume.

At one point, he notes that there sure are a lot of containers moving on the container ships of the world.

At one point, in order to keep his lame "no airplanes" rule, he leaves his wife behind and forces her to take an airplane to catch up. Charming, IF you admire the goal and the man.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Martin Stanzeleit on May 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read this book while on a long-haul flight, and the author rambling along about why he dislikes modern air travel got me hooked. However, apart from the fact that a young couple without financial problems (locating the closest ATM seems to be the major thrill here) travels round the globe, there doesn't happen much. A pre-booked cycling tour of Vietnam, a ride on Japan's high speed train or a trip on a luxury cruiseship? Ordinary hotel rooms and a rent-a-car trip across Australia? I had expected a little more adventure!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Global Wanderer on June 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
There are many kind of travel books. Some describe the locations visited, some the people, some the internal soul-searching of the traveler, or often it's a combination of the above.

Grounded is a bit different - the travelogue is about the experience of using various methods of transportation excluding the airplane. I enjoyed reading how it is to be a week on a freighter (often lonely!) or being on trains for several days (smelly!). I also liked that the author used a combination of means of transportation including the bicycle, and going both as an individual and, one time in Vietnam, as part of a group.

Some reviewers criticize that Stevenson did not spend more time at certain destinations - while I agree that it is kind of stupid not to see the Chinese Wall while in Beijing, for example, I cannot fault the author for not doing so. Every traveler has his or her interest - for some, it might be cultural sites, or sports, food, or nature for others. Just because I would have visited the Great Wall when in Beijing does not mean you would or should.

In terms of style, I found the humor of the author quite compelling and not condescending; Stevenson makes a lot of fun of himself and his girlfriend as well as of others they meet. His writing is honest because every traveler has impressions of countries and people, good and bad. I liked the fact that Stevenson is not always "political correct", but says it how he saw it. Kudos also for making some thought stimulating comparisons between modern and pleasant travel abroad, i.e., European or Japanese fast trains, and the sad joke of Amtrak's "fast trains" at home.
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