Monday, October 21, 2013

Cindie's Version of the Travis Travels in China

Ever since 2002 when Cindie and Tim Travis set out on a bike tour with enough money to keep them on the road for seven years, I have been haphazardly following their travels, wondering if they would stick with it.  Indeed they did, fully embracing the life and writing three books about it.  It was big news, then, two years ago when Cindie announced she'd had enough and wanted a divorce. She was tired of the nomadic life and wanted to settle into a Buddhist community in India they had recently visited.

When I learned that she had written a book of her own, "Finding Compassion in China" under the name of Cindie Cohagan, I was hoping it would fully explain her decision to stop traveling, especially since her website described the book as a quest that left her questioning her seven-year marriage.  It didn't say though that this book about China came three years into their travels and that she stuck with Tim for another six years before calling it quits and ending their marriage.

The book is only minimally about her disenchantment with her husband and the traveling life.  Rather it is the usual, though better than average, self-published travel book about their experiences on the road.  She does mention from time to time her sense of loneliness and increasing alienation from Tim and her need for a sense of community, but does not harp on these issues.  She expresses the typical traveler's frustration of having just fleeting moments with people she'd like to know better.  It seems to touch her a little deeper than most.  When an eight-year old boy starts crying when he learns that she won't be coming back, she cries too. 

Its not the only time she is brought to tears.  The long and high climbs in the Himalayas weakened her, making her vulnerable to tears of relief and gratitude, once when a Dutch woman gave her some chocolate and another time when she crawled into her tent after an impossibly hard day in the rain.  The rigors of the road also reduced her to tears earlier in their travels in Costa Rica, thrilled to come  upon air conditioning for the first time in months at a Burger King, as Tim mentioned in his first book.

Cindie expresses occasional doubt about the value of what they are doing.  She felt troubled that people were so nice to them, especially people who had so little, and that she couldn't adequately reciprocate, not realizing that she brought joy to others, allowing them to meet someone doing something out of the ordinary and giving them the opportunity to be kind and generous.

Her biggest grievance with her husband was that he had turned their travels into a business proposition, spending more time on the computer than exploring the areas they found themselves in.  She felt she had no choice in the matter and that their relations had been reduced to a "get-by mode,"  but does not explain why she chose to endure it.  When they would arrive somewhere,  Tim would bury himself in his computer while she went out to give it a look.  It was a happy day for her when the computer broke.  Telling Tim so led to a full-blown fight.

Though the book didn't tackle these essential issues, it at least gives a better portrayal of the touring life than those written by her husband, which are filled with inane, simple-minded detail and a naiveté that knows no bounds, making comments such as, "the Dutch are people from Holland," and "Cindie loves trying food she has never eaten before."  After reading his first book, "The Road That Has No End, How We Traded Our Ordinary Lives for a Global Touring Adventure," about their first year on the road bicycling from Arizona to Panama, hoping it would be more reflective than his blogging, I had no desire to read another.  But I did have a sense from some of Cindie's blog posts that she was a more perceptive and sensitive writer. I was perfectly willing to make  her book my first Kindle purchase, especially since she was offering it for a mere 99 cents, money well spent.

A better book though might have been about their final travels together through India, reflecting on their nine years on the road and her decision to stop.  As I know all too well, the challenges of biking in India would have given her as much material as China.  It is far different than biking anywhere else and would have made for a fine read.  But I can understand, as well, why she'd want to write about China. I too spent a couple months bicycling there several years after they did and had many noteworthy experiences.  

I was joined by my friend Stephen, who was nine months into an around the world bike tour, for part of my travels.  It was at the top of his list of countries he'd like to return to for further biking, just like me.  And for both of us, India would be near the bottom.  The Chinese were remarkably hospitable, and it was exciting to be in such a rapidly changing and increasingly influential place.  Cindie agrees with that, though she lets that aspect of their time in China be overshadowed by their paranoia of being spied on.  

As they were, I was detained briefly by the police, me for venturing into a Forbidden Zone and they for taking a photo of a prison.  They were much more rattled by the experience than they needed to be, almost making it the defining moment of their travels.  It should have been all the compassion they were showered with, as is the title of her book.  But instead, she prefers to lament government policies, rather than accentuating the great warmth of the people, as that is the essence of the travel experience and what ought to have kept them going all those years.

She does lapse into an occasional lame brained comment symptomatic of her ex-husband, such as, "I believed one should have the freedom to practice the religion of one's choice."  And she managed to twice use the word "peddled" when she meant "pedaled."  But one needn't fear being distracted by too many such typos.  There are fewer than one often finds in self-published books.  She did quite well with this her first solo attempt at a book.  I hope her sales have been enough to encourage her to write another.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

I always wondered when bloggers ever found the time to experience or enjoy life when they wrote so much. I am very thankful that you take the time.