Memoirs aren’t usually my thing. I always want to read them and then I get a few dozen pages in and realize, I am just not that interested. There has been a few exceptions, of course, including Maggie Downs’ Braver Than You Think, Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime.
This memoir is a bit different. While it does offer Down’s memories of her mom and her mom’s dreams of travelling the world, it’s also a travelogue and we get to see the places Downs’ visits on her year long trip.
When Downs embarks on her solo journey, she is newly married, leaving her husband and her reporter job, and spending a year backpacking across 17 countries.
Downs visits all the places her mom used to dream about before she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, a form a dementia that usually strikes when a person is in the prime of their lives, usually between the ages of 45 and 64.
“By embarking on an international journey, Downs learned to make every moment count – travelling around the globe and home again, losing a parent while discovering a world.”
When Maggie begins her adventure, her mom is in the late stages stages of the disease, living in a long-term care home unable to speak or walk. While on her trip, Downs’ mom passes away. Downs’ returns home for the funeral and then returns to her trip with – to her – a surprising new form of grief.
What I liked about this book is that it had information about Downs’ growing up years and memories of her mom, but it was also a travel book, sharing her adventures as she hiked the Inca Trail to the Manchu Picchu, volunteered at a monkey sanctuary, hung out with elephants and found herself in the midst of the Arab Spring in Egypt.
While growing up, Downs’ mom would talk about the places she wanted to go and Downs would suggest she didn’t have the courage to do so. Her mom would suggest she was “braver then you think.”
Everything about this book showed bravery. You are just married, you have a steady job and then decide you need to leave it all and travel the world? To me that is really impressive. And then the things Downs’ decides to do as a woman, alone. Talk about brave.
The other thing I liked about this book is that it felt authentic. Often when I read travel blogs, it’s all very happy, happy. Everything was beautiful, everything seemed to go right and all the pictures were fabulous. And I eventually lose interest because it can’t be true. Everything can’t be great all the time.
I liked the fact that Downs’ was honest about her trip. There was good, but there was also bad (ie couch surfing), and she shared both. She spoke about the choices she made – ones I certainly wouldn’t have – but how they seemed to work out. But by making those choices, she met some amazing people who welcomed her into their lives with open arms – and often a meal and love.
Downs’ book helped me add a bunch of things to the places I would like to see – and many places I would not.
Read my Q&A with Maggie Downs here.
A copy of this book was provided by PGC Books for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.