Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Books I've Read: Tales of a Female Nomad

I just finished reading Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. It is an incredible story of her travels through Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Israel, Galapagos, Indonesia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Thailand.

Rita writes about serendipity, and that is a theme throughout her book. She often travels with no set plans, and is eager for new experiences. She takes advantage of opportunities as they come up, "It's my new credo: say yes to everything."

During her travels, Rita tends to stay in one place, getting to know the people and community. "Wherever I am, I try to participate in the culture, not judge it." Although she did have trouble with this when faced with the strict culture of the ultra-orthodox community of Mea She'arim in Israel. She did not appreciate being considered a second class citizen because she is female, and I don't blame her.

She also struggles with her desire to change things. Living in other cultures, "it is not my place to change their lives. I am here to learn from them, not alter their history." Rita caught herself trying to change things for friends in Bali, where she lived on and off for 8 years and came to care deeply for the people she met. She goes on to say, "When I am tempted to change who they are or rush what they are becoming, it is time to move on."

Her experience with the orangutans at Camp Leakey in Borneo sounded so familiar. Then I remembered the chapter on Borneo in Catherine Watson's book, Roads Less Traveled, where she described working at Camp Leakey with Earthwatch. Both authors also have similar stories about cremation ceremonies in Bali.

The similarities don't end there. At the end of her book, Rita shares, "While I am here, wherever that may be, I want to be 100 percent here. One of the most important things I have learned during the last fifteen years is how to enjoy and savor the present." When I read Catherine's travel philosophy, I wonder if the two authors have ever met.

*** In the odd way that things happen, yesterday, while I was finishing this story, some other blogs posted articles about some of the very experiences I was reading about. Jamie Rein at Gadling wrote about Spanish Immersion in Guatemala, Eileen Ogintz at Smarter Travel wrote about visiting the Galapagos Islands, and Pam at blogher travel wrote about homestays and mentioned Servas, the service Rita sometimes uses in her travels.