Sunday, May 23, 2010

Green book of the week - Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World

Today we review a green book that is about traveling around the world with just one rule in mind: no airplanes please!

Our book is:

Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World

Author: Seth Stevenson

Seth is a contributing writer for Slate. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, New York, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and other publications. He's received multiple Lowell Thomas awards from the Society of American Travel Writers, been excerpted three times in the Best American Travel Writing series, and won the 2005 Online Journalism Award for commentary. He graduated from Brown University and live in Washington, D.C.

Publisher: Riverhead Trade

Published on: April 2010

What this book is about? (from the publisher's page)
An eye-opening and fascinating journey from an acclaimed travel writer who circled the globe without ever leaving the ground.

In this age of globalism and high-speed travel, Seth Stevenson, the witty, thoughtful Slate travel columnist, takes us back to a time when travel meant putting one foot in front of the other, racing to make connections between trains and buses in remote transit stations, and wading through the chaos that most long-haul travelers float 35,000 feet above. Stevenson winds his way around the world by biking, walking, hiking, riding in rickshaws, freight ships, cruise ships, ancient ferries, buses, and the Trans-Siberian Railway-but never gets on an airplane.

He finds that from the ground, one sees the world anew-with a deeper understanding of time, distance, and the vastness of the earth. In this sensational travelogue, each step of the journey is an adventure, full of unexpected revelations in every new port, at every bend in the railroad tracks, and around every street corner.

What we think about it?
This book is like the opposite of the movie "Up in the Air". If George Clooney's character adores airplanes and airport, Seth Stevenson just hate them, or in his own words: "We despise airplanes and all they stand for." Now, I don't have such strong feelings against airplanes, but if I have to choose between Seth and George Clooney, then I'm with Seth!

Now, when I finished reading the book, I thought that 'It's not about the destination, it's about the journey' might be a good beginning to describe my thoughts about this book, but as more as I thought about it, it occurred to me that this book is actually both about the journey and the destination.

True, Seth and his girlfriend Rebecca are moving quite fast from one place to another in their way to circumnavigate the world. They don't spend too much time in each of the interesting places they visit on the way, which can be understandable if you use any possible means of transportation other than airplane and don't have couple of years to dedicate for the challenge you took on yourself.

So why it's also about the destination? because as Seth explains in the book and I totally agree with him - when you travel by airplane, you might get somewhere but "your soul never completely leaves home". Our ability to fully enjoy new, as well as familiar destinations, when we're "teleporting from airport to airport" is clearly limited. So when we travel somewhere by a train or a bus, not only that we have the ability to enjoy the journey, our experience once we get to the destination is much more enriched.

For me, Seth and Rebecca's travelogue is not about nostalgia to the days where most people traveled by trains, ships or buses, but an offer to alternative travel, a more sustainable and fulfilling one. You reduce your carbon footprint and at the same time increase the number of adventures as well as the level of intimacy you'll reach with people, cultures and places.

Somehow I got here philosophical when all I actually wanted to say that this is a great book. I love to travel and I had my share with 40-hour bus travel in Brazil, ramshackle buses in Guatemala, night drives in a small jeep in India, road trip in Australia and so on, so I immediately got into the travel mood of the book and followed with pleasure every bit of their long journey.

Last but not least, once I finished this book I knew I'll have to go to the library and get my hands on "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne, which is an inspiration for Seth, who keeps getting back to this book especially in times of difficulties, and a great book in general.

Bottom Line: A great book to read before, during and after you travel, even on an airplane, although it goes much better with a nice and long ride on a train or a bus!

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!