When I was a child, my mother would tell me the stories of who my ancestors were, which countries they came from and how they got to America. We talked often about my grandmother, her mother, who immigrated to America as a Japanese war bride following WWII. I was entranced with the adventure and how bravely my grandmother said goodbye to her family and all she knew to follow her husband home. Their love was strong despite the difficulties that come with not sharing a native tongue. Soon my mother bought me a place mat that had a map of the world and I spent mealtimes staring at all the different countries and wishing I could visit them all. I would plan out trips, tracing sea adventures in the Pacific Islands and land adventures through Europe and Asia.
When I was in college, I began to fulfill some of these dreams. I have backpacked through Europe, lived in Japan and visited Mexico and the Caribbean. But there is still so much left to see and experience!
A like-minded friend recently lent me Rita Golden Gelman's Tales of a Female Nomad. Ms. Gelman is absolutely fearless! As her marriage disintegrates, Gelman begins to test her new wings and travels alone to all the places her husband has refused to go throughout their long marriage. Eventually they divorce and she gives him nearly all their worldly possessions and becomes a nomad. She is an author and can write wherever she is, and her royalties are enough to sustain her living expenses, so she is able to devote herself to this lifestyle.
In each country that she chooses to live in, Gelman studies the language, the cooking, and the culture. She tries to make friends with the people of the area, and while many are initially wary of her, she is eventually fully embraced and made a part of their lives. She shares her children books that she wrote with the children of the area, and often teaches informal English to her friends and their children. Her two grown children also often visit her as she goes around the world. She spends as long as she likes in each place, moving only when fancy takes her. I was so impressed with her utter fearlessness (I have only once traveled alone, and found myself in several somewhat dangerous situations.), her networking skills, and the way she becomes a part of the local community in each place she visits. Gelman writes in a clear, engaging style as she explores her rebirth in a new way of life, her experiences and interactions with new cultures and her struggles with loneliness and the loss of her marriage. Ultimately, Gelman triumphs in redefining herself, her life's path and finding meaning in making connections with people.
I didn't want this book to end! I recommend it highly to anyone who loves traveling and reading about different cultures. It revived my dream of working as a travel writer, and I am now planning a trip to Europe with my sister.