S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars
A South American - Magical Mystery Tour
"Travel helps separate what is real from what is not. Travel is education without agenda."- Walter Rhein
Walter Rhein’s introductory chapter to Reckless Traveler, available online and in the eBook preview, trapped me as quick as I glanced at it. I did not set out to read a travel biography, but a chance crossing of a Facebook post had me ensnared. Equally concerned for Walter’s health and excited about what he experienced, I had no choice but to neglect my to-read pile dominated by dark fantasy. My reading mirrored that of the author’s experience. Spending a decade in Peru, initially as short-time tourist one who did not speak the local language, Walter recaps his own entrapment: his muse anchored him in a foreign land.
The author’s style is welcoming; the story is adventurous and peppered with philosophical depth. He accurately portrays the consequences of traveling without a plan, which is fraught with fun and danger. Visa issues and adventure take him to Venezuela and Chile—so he was not bound to Peru. Read this and you encounter: giant cockroaches, being robbed, Machu Picchu, AK47’s, Chilean jails, medical crises, peanut butter, transient friendships, bribery, murder, a race through the mountains, being robbed again…He does not advocate that everyone should actually travel recklessly; the best alternative is to let Walter do the walking and talking…and just follow him via the comfort of this book.
Recommend for all readers. The best way I can communicate Walter Rhein’s voice and the scope of the book is to offer a random array of quotes:
Random Adventurous Snippet (curious-reader traps):
My dreamy recollections came to an abrupt halt when once again I found myself in Ecuador, regarding the ominous line of stern-faced mercenaries with AK-47s.
A kiss is a nice greeting. Getting through the day becomes much easier when dotted with kisses from women you meet.
I woke to find myself staring into the eyes of the world’s largest cockroach.
I rounded the corner and came upon the carnage. The taxi sat by the side of the road, its windshield spattered with orange-red droplets. I looked at the droplets for some time before I realized they were blood.
After thirty seconds, I threw up the tea. “Can we please go to the hospital now?”
My left wrist was scratched. In the place where my watch normally rested was now only a patch of untanned white skin. The guy had stolen my Timex Ironman!
“His name is Ivan. He’s the son of the Yugoslavian ambassador to Perú, and he doesn’t like Americans.”
Its trunk light came on to reveal a crumpled sheet of thick plastic. The driver pushed this aside, to expose, much to my surprise, piles and piles of money.
I paged through my passport and found an entry stamp to Chile. I shook my head. There was something slightly creepy about entering a foreign country without even talking to a border official, but I shrugged it off.
Last to emerge was Alan Garcia, the President of Perú himself.
I received a call from Roberto Carcelen. Roberto is a cross-country skier who became Perú’s first winter Olympian after representing the country at Vancouver and then again at Sochi.
The trick to crossing an Indiana Jones-style suspension bridge is to never look down. Of course, this is impossible, because you must ensure that your feet connect with planks not rotten to the core.
Philosophical Excerpts :
I was suddenly glad for the increased ability to dampen out sensory intrusions. You don’t read words you can’t understand, or eavesdrop on conversations you can’t comprehend.
Therein lay the rub. “They hate it,” I said. “Everybody hates it. When I meet American tourists on the street here, taking ‘appropriate’ two-week vacations, they flash me disapproving stares as they pass by… “Maybe their scorn is only in my imagination,” I admitted. “But in the US these days, or at least where I lived, there are those who will label you as ‘unpatriotic’ for even aspiring to learn a foreign language.”
Living in Perú took the pressure off me financially, and created the freedom to think about things other than how I was going to cover monthly expenses. I felt I had stumbled into a closeout sale on time, and I wanted to purchase as much as I could. But Perú had a dark side too: it was important to keep on your toes.
The funny thing about learning foreign languages is that whenever you make an error in word choice or pronunciation you invariably say something totally inappropriate and probably sexual in nature.
The fact is, altitude can really mess with you, and you must consciously remember not to overexert yourself. Even a slow walking pace is enough to jack your heart rate up to near its maximum capacity. However, you don’t feel as if you are going too hard, which is why you can get yourself into trouble.
The only way to get a true experience is to be your own guide.
It’s liberating to come home and know there won’t be a stack of bills waiting for you. This freedom came with certain inconveniences, but overall the trade worked for me. I liked that I needed to go for a twenty minute walk if I wanted to use the internet; it meant I wouldn’t go online unless I had a true task pending that needed to be taken care of.
I could see how a bilingual readership would make it more challenging for any single entity to control a narrative.
Personally, I’d rather strive for error-riddled greatness than be limited to perfect mediocrity.
On that pinnacle, I realized that, when discussing decision-making, people tend to leave out significant points, the most important being this: Every choice has a consequence; some are good; some are bad; some are positive, but yet represent missed opportunities.
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