A review of Douglas Jewell’s Roadtrip

[Note: Each Saturday this month, Vagablogging is featuring self-published travel books reviewed by self-published travel authors. This week, Bob Reil reviews Roadtrip.]

Review by Bob Reil

When he was 20 years old, Douglas Jewell made a life list. He had decided to live an unconventional life, unencumbered by the traditions of what he saw as a materialistic, consumer-oriented society. So he put pen to paper and came up with 10 ambitions, most dealing with life experiences that he wanted to have. Now 58, he has accomplished eight of these goals. His book, Roadtrip: A Baby Boomer’s Misadventures in Hitchhiking and Other Unconventional Travel, deals with two of those accomplishments: hitchhiking across the United States (which he did twice) and living in the Caribbean (which he did partly by hitching boat rides there and back).

Jewell is quite a character and survived his share of adventures and mishaps during his travels. He broke his ribs after getting lost several days into a wilderness hike, was one of three crew-members on a sailboat without electricity during a vicious Caribbean storm, and had a few guns pulled on him during his hitchhiking days. Roadtrip is a recounting of these and many other adventures. It is also a rare travel book in that it deals almost exclusively with long distance hitchhiking and gives the reader insight into a type of travel that most people have never experienced.

The book does have a few weaknesses. It’s largely a blow-by-blow account of his journeys, which means it can shift from being an entertaining travel tale to a recounting of details that seem lifted from a journal. There are some misspellings and grammatical errors (mostly tense changes) scattered through the manuscript. And Jewell spends the first third of the book talking about life with his first wife and the birth of his two children, who then disappear from the story only to reappear in the postscript with a brief explanation about his divorce.

In the end, though, I have to say Jewell’s story was a pleasant read that drew me into his life story. He has an easygoing, conversational tone, mixed with a dollop of personal opinions and life views, that makes you feel as if you’ve pulled up a bar-stool and are listening to him regale you with tales over a cold beer. I also appreciated Jewell’s insights into long distance hitchhiking. It almost makes you want to strap on a backpack, stick out your thumb, and find the open road.

Bob Reil is the author of Two Laps Around the World: Tales and Insights from a Life Sabbatical.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | August 15, 2009
Category: Travel Writing

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