Linda Ballou’s Lost Angel Walkabout isn’t your standard collection of travel essays. At first impression it reads more like nature writing than anything else. Sure, most travelers are drawn to the scenic beauty of the countries they visit, or a powerful sea or desert expanse. However, Ballou brings an intelligent meditation to her travels in the wilderness. Her pages express a deep appreciation of nature, but never slip into the New Age-y over-written romanticizing that can put a reader off.
And Linda Ballou gets deep into nature. Tale after tale has her weathering wild rapids in a kayak, hiking alone through forests and over mountains, or managing long difficult distances on her horse. The whole while Ballou remains a humble student of the forces of nature around her, the history of the land, and of her journey as a whole.
Ballou is a very culturally conscious traveler. Her stories bring with them a wealth of information about an area. She seems to travel with a researched understanding of a place’s history, customs, and ecological situation. Indeed, many chapters are followed with an Eco-Alert, informing readers of issues specific to an area and, sometimes, what they can do to raise awareness or help.
The book forays into Ballou’s personal life and her relationship with her mother, though it is with a deep respect to the parties involved and a well-written intimacy that never leaves the reader shocked or scandalized.
On certain journeys Ballou brings with her the words of great travel writers and adventurists who came before her. Reflected in their words, Ballou’s meditations leave a deep impact. She also includes a smart interview with travel writing legend Tim Cahill.
Ballou’s stories don’t rely on the novelty of far-flung or truly obscure places. In fact, the bulk of her tales take place at home in America. She avoids relying on the shock value or randomness of a situation, and instead focuses on the depth of the experience. There are no overbearing characters or exhaustive quirkiness to sour the reader, just smart writing.