Thank you to Running Press for an advanced copy of Clara Bensen's memoir, No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love & Wandering, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Clara Bensen is living a quiet life in Austin, Texas. She's in her mid-twenties and after suffering a mental breakdown, she has finally regained control of her life. Bensen has a stable office job and a small apartment. Things are going well, so she decides to start dating and joins OKCupid.
Bensen meets Jeff, a dynamic personality and free spirit. Jeff is a recently divorced father and college professor, currently illegally living in his university office. After just a few dates, Jeff convinces Bensen to quit her job and join him on a trip to Europe and Asia. The catch? No luggage and no expectations. Will this experiment end in love or disaster?
LIKE- I admire Bensen's spirit of adventure. Although I met my husband on the internet ( Match.com) and we ran way for a Vegas weekend on our third date, I can't imagine quitting my job and traveling without luggage or an itinerary.
She wore the same dress for three weeks and only had what she could carry in her purse. No way could I manage that! They also never made hotel reservations, instead trying their luck with the mercy of strangers and couch surfing. The stars seemed aligned for them and they never encountered much trouble with finding a place to stay. I did see the plus side of traveling without an itinerary; it left them open to magical encounters, conversations with locals, and visits to places off-the-beaten path. Most of their experiences were not those of the typical tourist.
As far as Bensen's writing, her memoir is a fine blend of personal insight and travelogue. She writes lush, sensory filled descriptions of the locales and infuses her story with her feelings towards Jeff and this burgeoning love. She strikes a strong balance between the various elements of her memoir.
DISLIKE - As an obsessive vacation planner and OCD regarding personal hygiene, their story caused me stress! It was fascinating and I admire them, but it still was stressful. A note to Jeff - a toothbrush is definitely in the "needs" category!
RECOMMEND - Yes! No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love & Wandering, is a great way for the armchair adventurer to live vicariously through Bensen and add a little safe spontaneity into their lives. Bensen's memoir is a hopeful story for those thinking of internet dating.
Also, make sure you do a Google search for Clara and Jeff to see their vacation outfits, especially that famous green dress!