Travels in a Strange State by Josie Dew
Reviewed By Steve Rudd
A man called Jonathan Raban once said, The only way to travel is to travel alone.
It opens you up to the world. It puts you in the way of luck and chance.
With such a sentiment Josie Dew whole-heartedly agrees, as do I.
This fantastically written book is a hugely insightful travelogue of Josie's
time spent cycling across America, from west coast to east, coupled with
explorations around a number of Hawaiian islands on the side.
Forever highlighting the dangers of being a travelling single white female
(just like Sue Hamilton in her Accidental Traveller journal), this book is
still so enthusiastically written that it makes you want to get out there in
the big wide world and do much the same as she has done.
Cycling in the US, as she discovers, is nothing like cycling in Britain.
First and foremost, hardly anybody cycles anywhere across the pond, and she
barely sees another soul on a bike all the time she's across there.
Thus, There was none of that sense of community which is found in any European town or city.
You couldn't trot down to a corner shop to pick up a paper or a pint of milk or swap
a bit of gossip with the locals - the nearest shops were a car ride away.
Indeed, just about everything in the US is geared towards people driving cars. Everywhere.
The mall was all or nothing. Nor did people pass the time of day on street corners or
cross the road to greet friends, anymore than people in Britain chat on the M1/ M25 intersection.
It's not that this lack of streetlife cohesion is necessarily wrong; it's just
different and strangely sad.
Wherever Josie is writing about, she deftly sets her experiences in such a place
up against other fascinating facts that might have occurred thereabouts.
For instance, when she's talking about her cycling travels in Hawaii she relates
the fact that Captain Cook couldn't swim (or so it is alleged), despite having sailed
from England all the way across there!
Equipped with a bunch of fantastic photos and quirky sketches, Travels In A Strange State
is a both a vibrantly funny and thoroughly inspirational read.
ISBN 0-316-90945-9 (first published in Britain in 1994; LITTLE, BROWN)
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