Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

Without ReservationsPulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alice Steinbach took a year off from her job writing for the Baltimore Sun to travel around Europe in search of the self she remembers, not defined by a husband, her kids, or her career.  She is hoping that by taking an entire year to travel, she can learn to slow down, to take one day at a time, without schedules or defined goals.

There is something about taking your time in each city, perhaps focusing on your neighborhood and its rhythms, that is completely different than the type of rush in, see it all, rush out type of travel that most of us can afford.  I’ve always wanted to go somewhere beautiful and interesting for a month or more, and really settle in, put work and home worries behind, and discover the cultures and the people of that place.  Maybe someday.

Steinbach starts in Paris, where she begins a romance with a Japanese businessman, then moves on to London, Oxford, and Italy.  Along the way, she reminisces about the life she has led thus far, and her roles in it.  It’s partly about her searching for spontaneity, but mostly about her wanting to learn to define herself as herself, not as a writer, a mother, a wife.   When I was halfway through the book, we went to see Eat, Pray, Love, and I came home thinking that the book and the movie were two of the same.  Both are women traveling through Europe alone, looking to get away from the preconceived notions of others.  Both women find love, and meet good friends along the way.

Which made me wonder if traveling alone naturally makes you more open to meeting others, and entering into friendships you might not even know about if you were busy in a conversation with a companion.  Because you’re in a cafe alone, or at a museum alone, or walking alone, you are perhaps more open to starting conversations, and because you don’t have to compromise with a husband/wife/friend/child on plans, you are free to change plans on a whim.

I didn’t love this book as much as the person who recommended it, but I did enjoy the time I spent with Ms. Steinbach.  I enjoyed reading about her adventures and the connections she finds with each city she visits.

3 thoughts on “Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

  1. Planning your trip already?
    Funnily enough I often fantasise about crossing the Atlantic in the other direction for this kind of trip, wandering around the small towns and hidden corners of the US, chatting to people, getting lost, eating…

  2. made me wonder if traveling alone naturally makes you more open to meeting others

    In my case, it unequivocally did. In my 3 months in Europe in 1985, I did Frankfurt > Heidelberg > Geneva > Lugano > Florence by myself, and met people. Then a friend and I did Florence > Munich > Hamburg > Copenhagen together and it was exactly as you suggest, we problem-solved and toured together.

    After that I did Stockholm > Helsinki > Narvik > Karlstad > Gothenburg > London > Amsterdam > Brussels > Paris mostly by myself and met *lots* of people, going out of my way to visit some (Brussels). I was hanging out with Swedish soldiers on the train when I met the girl from Brussels. I had a great time with new friends in London. I could go on for hours about this. Stop me now!

  3. I absolutely adored this book! I loved the elegant clearness of the writing, I loved the subject. I also like traveling alone, yes, traveling alone predisposes you to meeting the “natives”, immersing yourself in the country, etc. It’s one of my desert island books.

Comments are closed.