I got an interesting email the other day.
The email was from Adam Shepard asking us to review his latest book, One Year Lived.
His first book, Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream, was partly a response to Barbara Ehrenreich’s controversial Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.
In Scratch Beginnings, Shepard’s set out to prove that he could start from almost nothing and have a working automobile, live in a furnished apartment and have $2500 in cash within a year. Where Ehrenreich failed, supposedly showing that those with limited financial resources are doomed to live in an endless cycle of poverty, Shepard succeeded in creating a successful life in one short year.
It’s an interesting premise, and landed Adam attention from the likes of NPR, The Today Show and CNN.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Adam’s email about his new book, One Year Lived, landed in our inbox.
In One Year Lived, Adam chronicles his year trip around the world. The book describes his experiences mustering cattle in the Australian Outback, bullfighting, volunteering with children in Honduras and meeting the love of his life.
It’s an interesting read as a travelogue, following the story of a self-deprecating young man on a trip around the world. Here, he describes bungee jumping in Slovakia.
“One of the guys says to me in broken English: “Just in case line break and you not stop before ground, we really enjoy know you.”
… Screw it. I take a final, lingering look over at Ivana, her expression cheery and supportive. I spread my arms out wide above my head. I bend my knees. I rise up off of my toes. I curl my head down over the rest of my body. I dive. I soar. An exhilarated shriek explodes through my lips, prying at my clenched jaw. The world opens up. My pulse pounds even harder. I’m dropping. I’m flying. The forest widens, widens, widens—a sea of spiky green spreading beneath me. The fall lasts a day, a week, a month. Three-point-two-five seconds.”
But it’s the bigger themes that Shep (Adam’s nickname) touches on that make the book worth reading.
In the book, he muses, “How does a person muster the courage—or recklessness—to put it all to the side for a year? To shelve responsibility? Alongside heaps of motivation—new places, new experiences, new foods—why does one decide to go and another doesn’t? Whether escaping the mundane or chasing excitement, why do some people talk about their dream to do something anomalous and others actually do it?”
It’s a fantastic question.
What makes one person decide to take a chance, and travel around the world for a year, while another decides to stay at home and forgo that opportunity?
One of my regrets is not traveling earlier in my life. I was was close to 30 when Charles and I set out on our first year long adventure. Why didn’t I go before that? For all the reasons Adam says: I was comfortable, I wanted to go to school, and honestly, I didn’t even know where to begin.
Maybe the reason some people just take off (and why I finally mustered the courage at 30) is something like this (again in Shep’s words), “This—right now, today—this is our time to live, yours and mine. Quality years ahead, presumably, and we’ve already had some great experiences, met some great people, and created some great memories.”
It’s really about an understanding that life is short, that the opportunity that you pass by may never come back again. We’ve written posts on 10 reasons to travel right now, and Shep’s written an entire book filled with reasons why you should travel if it’s your dream.
Why did Shep go? In his words… ”
“I wasn’t angry. I didn’t hate my job. I wasn’t annoyed with capitalism, and I was indifferent to materialism. I wasn’t escaping emptiness, nor was I searching for meaning. I have great friends and a wonderful family. The dude two doors down invited me over for steak or pork chops—my choice—one Sunday, and I couldn’t even tell you the first letter of his name. Most of my teeth are natural. … I felt as if I was a few memories short, as if there was still time for me to go out there and get missing for a little while. Bust out the List o’ Good Times, sell my car, store my crap, stuff a backpack, buy a small mountain of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and hop on a plane. Just this once.”
Disclosure: We weren’t paid to write this review (though we’re not above it, just in case J. K. Rowling’s looking for reviewers for her new book), though we did get a digital copy of Adam’s book to read.