Gillybean in China: What a Trip!

“Is it alright if we join you?” said the tallest of three lanky guys in their early 20s.

“Er, uh, yes, of course,” I stuttered, exhausted after an exhilarating day touring Shanghai with California college students I had accompanied on a three-week study abroad journey. I sat in our hotel bar, enjoying the opportunity to recharge with a Chinese beer. My students were upstairs in their rooms, giving their professor a break.

“Thank you,” the young man said as he and his two buddies sat with me in chairs around the low-profile table. “What a day!”

To heck with recharging. I was curious. “Tell me about it.”

I ordered three beers and leaned forward to hear their story. The Norwegians had flown the previous day to Germany, where they looked up at the departures board for a place to go. They found three seats on an overnight flight to Shanghai and off they went, without reservations. They had grabbed the last room in the downtown hotel and, as we sipped our beers, they picked my brain for ideas for their weeklong adventure.

When she turned 60, Scottish native Gill Puckridge planned to leave her life in South Africa for three months in Central America, but got sidetracked by a cheap flight to China. Three months later, her experiences had exceeded her expectations and she left China a changed person and traveler. She has been on the road ever since (for six years) and I eagerly await her next book.

Her story is Gillybean Goes to China: The Adventures of a Wandering Sexagenarian. The book often made me wonder, “Could I do that?” as I read about her daily adventures, accommodations, social life, and much more.

Gill Puckridge did not share the youth of my three fellow beer drinkers in Shanghai. And she was alone in a country that can intimidate even the most worldly traveler. But she packed courage and a thirst for new experiences in her seventh decade of life.

Her story is captivating. Like the Norwegians, she embraced China as a place full of opportunity while she employed her natural charm and curiosity.

Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield’s Voice Resonates

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Holden Caulfield’s voice as the protagonist in Catcher in the Rye is the masterful creation of J.D. Salinger, a man who often wanted to be left alone.

The words of the 17-year-old New Yorker take readers on a journey that feels so real we can all get lost in his world. Having flunked out of a boarding school for boys, Holden is isolated by depression, a distrust of shallow people, and vulgar language. He is more sensitive than he admits, still mourns the death of his brother Allie, and adores his younger sister Phoebe. He has not found a fit in four private schools.

The book’s first sentence sets the tone for Holden Caulfield’s story:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Salinger’s most famous book, set in the 1950s, was written for adults, but it remains a favorite of youth, selling hundreds of thousands of copies a year. Its popular use in high schools has gotten teachers in trouble for its themes of morality, violence, sex, underage drinking, mental health.

Most of us had a Holden Caulfield in us. Ferris Bueller did. Many of us still do.

Five decades after I first read Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s words make me laugh, make me sad, make me want to tell him to be kinder to himself. And, sometimes, to others.

I can still learn a thing or two from Holden Caulfield–and I’m not just saying that.

 

Camino Sunrise: Now It’s Your Turn

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My wife Sue’s ink-and-watercolor paintings highlight each chapter of Camino Sunrise.

Why did I write an adventure memoir about the Camino de Santiago?

I wrote to touch readers’ hearts, tickle funny bones, and pique curiosity.

I wrote for people who have tried long-distance trekking and for those who are considering their first hiking adventure. I wrote for armchair adventurers as well.

I wrote for people who have struggled with self-doubt, childhood bullying, and poverty.

Many readers have shared their reactions to Camino Sunrise. Many wrote that my book resonated in several of the areas I mentioned above. They found a message of hope.

I would love to hear what you think.