A few weeks ago I received a pre-publication copy of Grant Lingel's first book Imagine: A Vagabond Story for review. Grant and Travel Wonders are offering two free signed copies of this rollicking backpacking adventure.
Seven lousy credit points short of completing his degree, a spot of confusion on what to do next at this watershed moment in anyone's life and with a few hundred bucks in his back pocket, Grant Lingel heads for Mexico.
Starting as a guest entertainer in a flashy Mexican hotel, Grant very much lives life day-to-day. Early days are a blur of easy sex, cheap drugs, gallons of alcohol and brief acquaintances in among work shifts. When a chance to share a van with five strangers arises, Grant grabs the opportunity with both hands. Over a short period, Grant and his new friends trek through tropical rain forest, scuba dive, hike dingy caves full of bats, climb smoking volcanies, sit atop Mayan pyramids, discover tumbling waterfalls in remote national parks with gun-toting soldiers and drive their van off a steep mountain track as they venture through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.
Eventually Grant settles a little, volunteering at a couple of Guatemalan hostels meeting a "United Nations" of backpackers, guests and volunteers with their potpourri of languages, cultures and upbringings. At this point, Grant seems to change character being shaped by friendships that are more than temporary and with values that starts to shape Grant's thinking and life.
The book beautifully captures the varying characters that Grant meets with a wonderful eye for fascinating detail - some are types of people that I could picture from my own travels. Similarly, Grant captures the exotic wilds of Central America - the stunning landscapes, the dusty villages, the harrowing roads. At times, I'd have liked to know more about some of the characters but I guess travel at times only realistically offers fleeting glimpses of people that lead such different lives and probably have great stories to tell.
Grant's story barrels along at a rapid pace, each day bringing new places, different people and varying adventures. His typical and conservative family upbringing in New York seems but a fading memory. Grant's boundless energy, adventurous tales and youthful exuberance disguises a truly personal journey of self-discovery, building of character, freedom and growing-up, yet one he is contented to share with the world. It is an easy-reading book I heartily recommend and would make an excellent travel companion on your next journey.
On offer are two copies of the book signed by Grant which will go to the two best comments, describing your ideal vagabond adventure. Ensure that you leave an email address so I contact the winners. The competition closes on September 15.
Meanwhile, I'd suggest you buy a copy of Imagine: A Vagabond Story, view an excellent gallery of photos from Grant's trip and learn more of his ventures through Central America.