On the theme of quests, I have been reading a number of books about women who travel the world. This particular book is a memoir by Rita Golden Gelman. I listened to it on audio because I usually love books that are narrated by their authors. Gelman’s narration is fabulous, making it sound more like storytelling than reading a set text. Tales of a Female Nomad covers the years 1987-2001, though Gelman has continued to travel and write ever since.
At the beginning of the story, Gelman is married to a man who doesn’t share her travel bug. This seems to be a theme: Birding on Borrowed Time also describes a “mixed marriage” between a nomadic, quest-oriented woman and her homebody husband. Does the nomad’s path demand too high a price? Gelman writes openly about her sorrow and occasional loneliness, in between the fun of making new friendships all around the world.
There was one spot in the book that stood out for me, for reasons having nothing to do with world travel. Gelman describes meeting two other women in New Zealand for the first time: “Turns out that both Marian and Lisa were relieved when I stepped out of the car. They’d been afraid I would arrive young and svelte, in heels and makeup.” Okay, I don’t wear heels and makeup, and I’m not young anymore. But is this true? Is it true that non-svelte women don’t want to meet women who are? It seems terribly ironic that these women are more nervous about meeting someone thin than someone from another culture.
Gelman’s interest in cultural anthropology leads her to seek out opportunities to live among villagers, in non-tourist areas. She deliberately sets herself up in situations where she doesn’t speak the language. She works hard to become accepted by local people, to participate in festivals, cook, teach, and work with children. She avoids putting down permanent roots, testing her limits and avoiding the comfort zone.
I found it particularly interesting that Tales of a Female Nomad dealt frankly with financial matters. In the tradition of Jane Austen, am I right? Gelman has occasions when she doesn’t have quite enough pocket change to cover something. She explains how she pays her way with income from writing children’s books, and how most of her international living situations are much cheaper than living in the US. She does a convincing job of making the life of a permanent nomad look achievable.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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