The Wander Year by Mike McIntyre is pretty much completely summed up in its subtitle: One Couple’s Journey Around The World. In 2000, Mike and his girlfriend Andrea left their jobs and spent a year travelling the world, with only a vague plan of where they were going and when.
Originally published as a weekly column in the Los Angeles Times, the e-book has been expanded from the original column. The Wander Year charts their progress around the world, with McIntyre talking about their travel, accommodation, experiences and illnesses in a frank and funny style.
What makes The Wander Year different to many travel books is that it is written in a noticeably journalistic style. McIntyre’s writing is more descriptive, more embellished than that of many travel writers, but although that may sound negative, it really isn’t. His writing style is thoroughly enjoyable, and the only negative about the transfer from column to book is that McIntyre sometimes recaps events which seem like only a few pages ago in manner which makes it sound like we haven’t heard the story before, but which for newspaper readers would have been a few weeks earlier, therefore they needed refreshing.
The pair travelled through five continents on their trip, and had a wide variety of experiences. The Wander Year is a fascinating read – this journey has been made and written about before, albeit not exactly the same but most round-the-world trips take in a lot of the same places, but The Wander Year still seems fresh and interesting, even though the journey itself took place 12 years ago. This is largely thanks to McIntyre’s thoroughly enjoyable and amusing style, but also because there is little in the book itself to date it. It is possible to tell from the references to the internet that this was before it took over the world, but only just.
I particularly enjoyed the pair’s early meanderings around Australasia and Asia, where they had plenty of strange experiences but also some of the best (and cheapest) food and accommodation of their trip. This isn’t a part of the world which has ever exerted a pull on me, with a few exceptions, but I found myself avidly turning the pages, wondering what was around the next corner.
If I remember rightly, I downloaded The Wander Year free or very cheaply, and given how much I enjoyed it, this is excellent value. It is so easy for travellers to become writers these days, with the prominence of blogs and self-published e-books, that there is a lot of really sub-par, dull travel writing out there. The Wander Year was a pleasure to read, the writer’s journalistic experience and personality shining through, making it well worth your time and money.
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