Ray Bradbury once said that, “Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness.” In her book, Life Is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel, Judith Fein gleefully sets out to show us how she has experienced that lostness in her travels. A proponent of spontaneous meetings, arrows pointing in a different direction from the one planned and even “mishaps” that lead to ultimate discovery, Fein spins her stories of the people she has met and the lessons she has learned from them during her travel. Her ultimate message to us is that travel changes us in more ways than we know, and she holds out her hand, welcoming us to our own journey of discovery and self-transformation.
Fein’s memoir is broken down into fourteen tales and their take-away messages. For the most part, she succeeds in communicating her enthusiasm and love of travel; she is without doubt a powerful and delightful storyteller. However, her stated philosophy of spontaneity is diminished at times when she indulges in telling us what to think about her stories. For example, the takeaway from her story of a Mayan woman in Guatemala seems a bit too predictable and formulaic: “Never will I ever underestimate the power of anyone’s dreams. Not even my own.” I had the feeling that most of us could have come to that conclusion on our own.
Fein is most effective in the stories where her thoughts are transparent, and she herself is seen, not as a high-powered travel journalist, but rather as just an ordinary, human traveler like her readers. As a yoga practitioner, I was able to appreciate Fein’s vulnerability in “The Sorceress’s Apprentice in Mexico” and to believe her thought process in “Life After Death in Nova Scotia”. Her story of the hotelkeeper in Istanbul is short and to the point, and reaffirmed my belief in the power of caring for our fellow human beings: Abe enjoys creature comforts, luxury, ease, and the finer things in life. But the very finest thing to him is human relationship and helping others. He does not believe we were born to shop, consume, and then die.
The people she describes in these stories are the ones I hope to meet and learn from on my own travels.
In the end, Life Is a Trip delivers on its promise to show us the magic of travel and its potential to enhance our lives and personal growth — which, I dare say, figure greatly for most OmStays members. And it’s just a fun read with great photos of the characters throughout (the photo of the High Priest Elezar is particularly expressive.) I won’t spell out for you what your lessons from Fein should be, but I will say that my takeaway is to remember to travel “more richly” and always keep in mind that my real journey destination is not a place but rather a new way of seeing.