Wanlderlust is Elisabeth Eaves’s travel memoir that spans her teenage years to her late twenties. She first becomes obsessed by travel after a boyfriend saves up and travels the world with no commitments. Jealous, she begins planning to do something similar. Through study abroad, an internship with the State Department and her own travels, Eaves honestly details what it is like to travel alone as a woman. Unfortunately, Eaves’s memoir left me confused and uncomfortable, frustrated and disappointed, when I really wanted to enjoy this memoir.
I respect Elisabeth Eaves’s honesty, but I’m flabbergasted as to why every trip she takes is either because of a man or results in a man. She talks about finding herself, but all she finds is another man to sleep with, or perhaps, fall in love with. Why is this the particular structure she chose for her story? Did it really have to be that way? You can’t tell me that she couldn’t have described her travels outside of the context of getting, losing or lusting after a man. To top it all off, she described other women so disdainfully. And maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much if Eaves weren’t such a good writer. I wanted to keep reading Wanderlust, because it is written beautifully, but I found myself angry and even offended at her descriptions.
There were times when Eaves really examined what it is like to be a girl traveling alone and that is when I truly appreciated her. “I craved total freedom, and I envied the boys because I thought they could have it. But there was a way in which, as a girl, I could act free but never quite get there in my head. However many expectations I escaped and constraints I threw off, there would always be that nagging caution at the back of my mind that said I’d better lock the door, ” she explains. That is what I wanted, acknowledge what it is like to be a girl traveling alone, but to go beyond that, to write about what it is like to be Elisabeth Eaves traveling alone. Instead, I came across understanding little about her and the places she visited and more about how many men she slept with. I want to make clear that my problem is not with how many men she slept with or the fact that she slept with men, but that it became central to her memoir, apart from her travels. The subtitle of her book is “A Love Affair with Five Continents”, but the reality becomes “Love Affairs in Five Continents”.
When Eaves abandons this pretense, and writes just about travel or just about where she is or about how she is feeling, I loved her best. I can almost overlook the rest just for those pure moments of excellent travel writing. I understand exactly what Ash is saying in her own review of this novel, the fact that Eaves acknowledges her faults, acknowledges what she does with this book, almost makes it easier to read. At the same time, though, I just don’t understand the structure. Once again, I find myself wondering if this is a fault of how the book is marketed. It’s billed as a travel memoir and travel writing, but is it really? Or is it a memoir of love, relationships and travel. If it had been sold to me as that, I very well may have enjoyed this.
Giveaway: If your interested in finding out for yourself if you could connect with Eaves and her storytelling style, I have one copy of Wanderlust to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. I’ll announce the winner in one week!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book to review. You can find out more about the tour here.