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Without a Spare: A Fearless Woman's Life of Travel Paperback – January 13, 2013
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About the Author
I have been an artist and traveler all my life. Sketches I drew in Mayan jungle temples and Ethiopian Coptic churches remain a source of inspiration. The blazing saffron silks of India and copper markets of Turkey influenced my palette and led me to work in metal. Kitchens in Belgium, Morocco, and Syria changed the way I cooked. Most of the milestones in my life played out in other countries. Only when I was older did I realize how deeply I was marked by my travels and how everything I am and do grows from them.
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This reader was captured by the author's openness to the world, her willingness to travel off the beaten and controlled path --where most people dare not tread -- armed with little more than an unbridled faith that her curiosity would return rich experiences. Her instincts were correct. The individual stories leave you amazed by the breath of the physical experience. But the greater story for me was the incredible interaction with strangers. It's as though Bonnie Kassel's willingness to experience the world opened a pathway to a higher understanding, a higher destiny; a destiny that left me envious and turning pages at a quick clip.
I believe it was Woody Allen who said that 90% of life is showing up. Bonnie Kassel showed up alright, and if a higher authority were to give grades for how well lives are lived, she would get an A+. Through the stories of Without A Spare, Ms. Kassel shares some of that life-well-lived. What a gift.
I can see, feel, taste and hear her adventures, which run the gamut from the fairytale romantic (think: yachts and private islands) to the horrific (think: guerrillas with guns and unwanted sexual advances). And everything in between.
Kassel has the writer's most precious gift--the ability to write in her own wonderfully unique voice. She's a real storyteller. There's nothing artificial or stilted about her writing style or her lifestyle. She's a feisty, yet compassionate woman who had her eyes wide open (most of the time) and was willing to take the consequences of her adventurous nature. Things seem to just happen to her, but we all know that these accidents only happen to those who are open to embracing them.
Her observations are laser sharp and range from tart and funny to wise and rueful. Each chapter/adventure is concise and tight, but nothing is missing. She's able to convey a lot in a few choice words.
As I was reading her book I thought of other smart, daring women whose lives and memoirs I admire. Emily Hahn comes to mind, as does Beryl Markham and M.F.K. Fisher. I highly recommend this book. It was a beautifully written and very satisfying read that prompted me to think about my own life and choices.
I am not an external traveler. My journeys are deeply internal and the slightest outer stimulation is fuel for a kind of deep-internal sea-diving. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be the opposite of me: a glutton (and I mean that in the most positive way) for external travel: for meeting people, exploring unknown lands, for diving head-first into the world. This book brought me about as close as I will ever get to knowing what that feels like.
This is a book for people with the travel gene — those who live to explore new territory. But it is also for people like me who never want to go anywhere, but want to know “everywhere.” (You can interpret those last quotation marks however you choose.)
My only wish is that there were more information about her life between stories (sometimes many years pass). But I understand that this is not meant to be an autobiography, so that is not really a fair complaint. This book shows that travel is not just an occasional holiday break, but for some extraordinary people it is a life-defining activity.
In any case, I will definitely recommend this book to friends. Well done, Ms Kassel!
With a resilience that is remarkable, Bonnie's travels range from the harrowing to the transformational. An artist by trade, her honed visual skills treat the reader to exquisite descriptions of colors in nature, architecture and indigenous crafts. Bonnie is also a gourmet, so you will be treated vicariously to mouthwatering food specialties from the markets as well as sumptuous shared meals with the locals.
In reading this book, one discovers many destinations that are pristine hidden treasures. The author shares intimately what enabled her to choose the path of an intrepid traveler to such an astonishing degree; the understanding of her nature, her past and the influences that contributed to her amazing strengths are told honestly, without varnish and without ego. Insights about life, living and loving go hand in hand with laugh out loud anecdotes about situations and relationships.
A must read for those who are open to actually encountering the world fearlessly and a real treat for the arm chair travelers who want excitement, adventure and a visual cornucopia while curled up in an armchair, covered by an afghan and sipping a cappuccino.