Monday, April 2, 2012

The Voluntourist

Title:  The Voluntourist
Author:  Ken Budd
Publication Information:  Harper Collins. 2012. 447 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book came as an uncorrected proof.

Favorite Quote:  "We live up to those who shaped us by honoring their strongest values, by caring for those we cherish, and caring for those that they cherished. By being our best and doing our best."

The Voluntourist is subtitled "a six-country tale of love, loss, fatherhood, fate and singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem". This memoir really tells three stories. It is a look into the growing popularity of voluntourism. The book also is a travel journal, describing the places and people Ken Budd encounters on his journeys. Finally, this memoir is a personal journey as the author struggles to reconcile to his father's death and to the fact of his loving but childless marriage.

Voluntourism is the idea of people traveling to different locations of the world, combining travel and vacation with a chance to do some good. Ken Budd has traveled multiple times as a voluntourist, sometimes with his wife and sometimes alone. The projects he describe range from rebuilding homes in New Orleans to studying climate change to working orphans and special needs children. He describes the amazing need for help, the ability of these projects to utilize whatever skills a person brings, and the sometimes discouraging feeling of how little you can do in a short time. The book talks about the challenges and rewards of voluntourism presenting a useful perspective for anyone considering such a trip.

In the context of the book, Ken Budd's memoir also acts as a travel journal. He travels to many different places including Ecuador, Kenya, China, and Palestine. Through his experiences, we get a brief look into these places and people, allowing the reader to be an armchair traveler. What makes it more interesting is that this is not a typical tourist's view, but a deeper look through the people that he meets.

The final aspect of the book is Ken Budd's personal journey. He undertakes these adventures as he feels his life incomplete after the death of his father and after accepting the fact of a life without children. For me, this was the incomplete part of the book. The projects and the places of travel were the highlight of the books. The emotional journey is reflected in glimpses making parts of the book come across in a somewhat detached manner. I wish there was more of his story. 

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