January 07, 2015

Wide-Open World by John Marshall

Voluntourism is becoming a popular way for people to spend their vacations.  At times it can help lower the financial burden of taking an exotic location, or if it doesn't fill that purpose, it's a good way to feel like you're helping and making a difference with your time.  Any of these reasons are good reasons for participating though, as is all the lessons you'll learn yourself while helping out in a foreign (or even domestic) locale.  Wide-Open World is actually John Marshall's story about how he and his family took six months to volun-tour around the world.

Marshall had a solid job, two kids in high school, and a wife that was a little bit of a dreamer.  Sensing his family growing apart, they came up with a plan to travel around the world for six months.  But had to do it on a budget.  Enter the world of voluntourism.  They planned out different locations they would go to volunteer, pay for airflights and boarding there, and that would help them get around the world.  On average they spent about a month at each places with varying degrees of time spent being a tourist in between them.  They volunteered at an animal rescue, WOOFED around at farms in New Zealand, taught English in Thailand and spent some time at an orphanage in India, among other things.  At each they did a different type of volunteering and all had their own tasks.

Marshall seems to be pretty honest about his family.  Despite his daughter saying she'd destroy his book if he wrote something unflattering about her, I have to say, he did paint her as being kind of spoiled.  But also learning, she was pretty much a typical American teenager, which can be an unflattering description anymore.  His son was a little more quiet, he didn't seem to have as much of a connection with him as he did his daughter, so while he's present in the book, he's not as much of a standout description.  And his wife.  It's clear that he loved her but that she was a free spirit and maybe they weren't so great of a match when it came down to it.  All the people they met (except the ones that rented their house while they were gone) seemed to be excellent as well and I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of the children in the orphanage, the different families they stayed with in New Zealand, and the spiritual leaders in India.  I was also pretty amused by the actions of the monkeys at the first stop in their trip.

The book introduces a pretty neat concept.  How many people would just quit and risk everything to do this with their family?  It took some planning (although not as much as you think), some bravery, and a willingness to try the unknown.  It does help that the kids were mostly grown and they were not in a lot of debt.  But the book makes this traveling seem approachable for most anyone.  The variety of places was nice as well as it showed all different types of volunteering.  The only thing I didn't really like about this book was probably the drama between the author and his wife.  It wasn't blatant, but it was continuous through the book.  But since this was a memoir I can't fault it too hard for that as he was telling about his life and how he and his family fared on the trip.  Another interesting feature about this book was that it featured three epilogues.  Ok, so two were actually just chapters, but they told of what happened after the trip, and then what happened after that, and then finally something actually called the epilogue followed.  It was more that before publication things that were relevant kept happening so the author included them.

A very interesting book, especially if you like volunteering or have wanted to find a way to travel around the world.  It introduces a lot of concepts that most won't even know existed let alone thought possible that they could do.

Wide-Open World
Copyright 2015
325 pages

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**

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