Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Review: Traveling Light: On The Road With America's Poor

Traveling Light: On the Road with America's Poor by Kath Weston was not exactly a book I was looking forward to reading (yes, actually reading, not listening to). The topic of America's poor sounded like it was going to make for some seriously depressing reading. But, I figured it was an import read none the less.

The first few pages left me a little dazed and confused. There was just something about the author's style that was "off."

Luckily, I stuck with it, and boy was I rewarded. While Weston's style may have started off a little disorienting (for reasons she explains an afterward in the book she uses present tense and no formal quotes - both for good reasons), I quickly adjusted and found that I couldn't put the book down.

Weston's approach to tackling the subject of the poor is brilliantly simple: she picks a destination, purchases a Greyhound ticket, and let's the experiences and adventures just happen. Heck, for not much more than the price of an airline ticket you can buy a Discovery Pass, which gives you 30 days unlimited riding anywhere in the US and Canada.

Having done many a marathon bus ride (Buffalo, NY to Philly - 12hrs baby!!), I've got a special affinity for Greyhound. Oh, were memories brought back. Some even good. The Rochester, NY station, where I grew up, did get a mention. Specially, as one of the most dangerous stations in the country. Ahhh, Rochester, we love you.

As for teaching me about the poor - I think Weston did a good job. This is a travelogue, not dissertation on how to handle America's needy. If Weston's goal was to raise awareness more than anything else, I think she's succeeded.

My two big take aways: read the book, it's entertaining and touching; adventure travel doesn't have to mean expensive plane tickets to a far off destination, it can be found as close as your local bus station.

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