THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “ROAD GANG,” BY H.V. TRAYWICK JR., CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN DIRECTLY BELOW THIS POST.
BOOK: Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure Across 21 Countries
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
THE AUTHOR: Marianne C. Bohr
THE EDITOR: Annie Tucker
THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press
SUMMARY: Baby Boomers married for more than 30 years dare more than the ordinary by walking away from their comfortable life to take a mid-life gap year abroad. Marianne and Joe Bohr jump off the proverbial cliff to follow a travel dream: they unload their house, sell the cars, quit their jobs and say goodbye to the US in search of adventure. They start and end their journey in France and travel through an additional 20 countries in-between.
THE BACK STORY: Gap Year Girl recounts details of their longing to get the trip underway during the year prior to departure and the experiences, epiphanies, highs, lows, struggles, surprises and lessons learned on their journey as independent travelers in an endearing, entertaining way. The memoir transcends the experience it recounts to tie into the universal human themes of escape, adventure, freedom, discovery and life reimagined.
WHY THIS TITLE: In addition to the standard travel destinations of European capitals, Gap Year Girl Goes to Europe includes visits to out of the way places such as Carcassonne, France; Andorra; Fez, Morocco; Agrigento, Sicily; Malta; the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kos; Split, Croatia; and Butrint, Albania. The reader cannot help but vicariously savor the food of southwestern France, sample the spices of Morocco, sip the wines of Italy and hike the Mont Blanc circuit from Chamonix, France through Courmayeur, Italy and Champex, Switzerland. But the book also gives a realistic look at the downside of extended independent travel in foreign lands by relating those periods when very real blues descend and loneliness and the longing for contact with family and friends weigh heavily.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Millions harbor the fantasy but few follow it: kiss your jobs goodbye, pack your bags and take off on a quest for adventure. Gap Year Girl encourages those who have long yearned to follow their bliss for a year to do just that. Readers quickly find themselves immersed in a reality tale of leaving it all behind for medieval villages, the lights of European cities, unimaginable culinary pleasures, hikes in the Alps and along Mediterranean coasts and the wildly entertaining (and sometimes infuriating) characters they meet along the way as pleasures unfold on a peripatetic, past the-blush-of-youth journey.
“[In Gap Year Girl,] Bohr steps outside of her comfort zone and explores the world…and she vividly conveys her experiences, such as when she describes the chaotic streets of Morocco and the loneliness of the bucolic French village Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Bohr shines…provid[ing] glimpses of herself as a whole person, not simply a traveler. Gap Year Girl is an excellent choice…a travelogue filled with historic places, but its personal stories provide its highlights.”
— Kirkus Reviews
Marianne Bohr has that rare knack of bringing the kaleidoscope of experience alive with a few well-crafted words; she seduces her reader away from black and white text into a reality where all the senses are teased.
–– Kev Reynolds, Bestselling author of The Tour of Mont Blanc, Cicerone Guides
AUTHOR PROFILE: Marianne Bohr, freelance writer and editor, married her high school sweetheart and travel partner. With their two grown children, she follows her own advice and travels at every opportunity. Marianne lives outside Washington, DC where after decades in publishing, followed her Francophile muse to teach middle school French. Her first book, Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure Across 21 Countries, was be published by She Writes Press in September 2015.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I so enjoyed writing Gap Year Girl and recounting the events and emotions that led to the leap of taking a year off from regular life. I think this excerpt captures how I felt:
The moniker Gap Year Girl made its appearance about six years prior to our departure. One hazy summer afternoon, while sitting behind my office desk, gazing out the window at the suburban parking lot below, my mind wandering beyond the budgets and strategic plan in front of me, I had an existential moment. I needed the prospect of an escape, and I needed to give it a name. In my mind’s eye, I was no longer senior vice president of a book distribution company; I was Gap Year Girl, an expat living in Europe—my new alter ego. This paradigm shift of how I viewed myself changed everything. From that point forward, I focused on making our gap year a reality. And I decided then and there to leave the world of business I’d inhabited for a quarter of a century. I saw my future as clear as day: I was going to make a midlife, post–gap year change and follow my bliss. By the end of the week, I’d registered for a master’s degree program in secondary education and was on my way to becoming a middle school French teacher.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Available at all independent bookstores, B&N, and Amazon
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Ingram Publishers Services
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: email@example.com; 301-326-8336
It’s such a luxury to be awakened by the sun, not an alarm clock, knowing there’s absolutely nothing we must do. After thirty-three years of a baby’s cry, a child jumping in our bed, or a buzzer to start our mornings, we’ve finally gotten used to being reprobates with loose agendas. But we take our languid days to a new level in our relaxing apartment in Rome. We follow nature by hibernating in our warm refuge, where we take things slowly, resting up for exploits yet to come.
We spend many a day rising late; having a leisurely breakfast in our laid-back studio; listening at noon to what we’ve started calling Afternoon Edition on NPR; catching up on e-mails, blogging, and our journals; finishing the novels we resolved to read while abroad; and then sipping cups of hot afternoon tea. We also spend many hours of these days planning our itinerary and reserving trains and hotels for the peripatetic weeks in southern Italy that will follow Rome.
When we imagined our year away, we glossed over the winter months, knowing
we would be in Italy but not focusing on the reality of the cold. Now that we’re here under a reluctant sun and in the company of an unusual frigid snap, we decide simply to hunker down. Our most difficult daily decision is whether to eat in or go out. Interspersed with warm days inside are those when we don hats, scarves, and gloves to brave the chill and discover the nooks and crannies of sprawling Rome, those often overlooked by those with limited time. It’s a glorious insalata mista of a metropolis, since it’s been here for so long and offers sights from every century of the past three millennia.
Our apartment is conveniently located on Via Flavia, not far from the American embassy on Via Veneto and just inside the city’s walls. It’s a spacious studio on the top floor of a five-story building with a red-tiled terrace that provides plenty of natural light and a place to hang our laundry. In an unusual twist, we reach our apartment through the lobby of the Hotel Medici and take the elevator to the privately owned residences. Different, yes, but it’s nice to have twenty-four-hour security guarding the building and someone at the front desk to greet us with buon giorno and ciao as we pass by. Off the tourist track, our neighborhood is quiet and safe, since government buildings surround us. It’s also filled with family-run restaurants, and we diligently try every one. Part of why we’re so conscientious about marathon training is that we need to work off the hefty servings of pasta of all shapes and sizes we consume, some of which we’ve never had before: spaghettoni, bucatini, cavatappi, tagliatelle, pappardelle, and—my all-time favorite—strozzapreti. I’m certain just listing them broadens my hips. I satisfy any sweet cravings with an after-dinner digestif—not as luscious as the creamy tiramisu Joe enjoys, but with many fewer calories. Running in the classy Villa Borghese park nearby is a godsend for burning off all the extra carbs.
Our Roman pied-à-terre is indeed convenient and comfortable, and the Internet is rock solid, but what we actually love best about the place is Stefano, our amusingly charming landlord. Without him, the apartment would be just another worn-around-the-edges studio; with him it’s like inhabiting a season of I Love Lucy, Italian style.
Stefano is a fiftysomething composer of movie scores who spends most of his time with his girlfriend, who lives in the apartment above us. He’s tall and attractive in a rumpled kind of way, the lines of his face hiding a gentle handsomeness. He speaks quirky English with a lilting Italian accent and apologizes repeatedly for being a musician and not a very good businessman.
We got our first taste of what renting from Stefano would be like even before we checked in. He graciously agreed to store our large duffels while we traveled with our small bags to Norcia and Florence, but he needed to “request a piccolo favore.” He’d lost his wallet that morning and asked if we could pay the balance of our rent in cash when we dropped off our luggage. “No problem,” we agreed. “Happy to help.” (Little did we know that in the ensuing weeks, Stefano would lose not only his wallet but his phone, TV remote, computer power cord, and keys.)
When we arrived for our month’s stay, Stefano was contrite about the less-than-stellar condition of the television (it didn’t work), the clothes washer (it leaked), and the refrigerator (on its last legs and barely cool). He promised to replace them all within the week.
Now we make do with what’s provided, including kitchen drawers stuffed with faintly sticky cutlery. Ten days pass, and although we hear all about Stefano’s lost items (he borrows the portable phone from our apartment after losing his cell phone), he makes
no further mention of new appliances. When we finally break the news that the old fridge has collapsed, he apologizes profusely and comes right down to take measurements for its replacement.
We head out for a day of communing with ancient Romans among the ruins, and when we return, we find the freezer open and defrosting, along with a note that our food is in a fridge in a closet across the hall. Stefano hopes we don’t mind that he put a load of his clothes in the leaking washer and borrowed our laundry soap.
What can we do but laugh?
The next morning, Stefano stops by to pick up his laundry and informs us that he has ordered the new fridge. “I have chosen the quickest delivery—forty-eight hours,” he says, “but do not forget, this is Italy, so we really don’t know when it will arrive!”
Two more days pass, and each morning Stefano knocks on our door to express how embarrassed and discouraged he is about the appliance merchant he selected. When I tell him not to worry, he coos, “Marianne, you are so gentle; thank you for being so gentle with me” (the English false friend of the Italian gentile, meaning “kind”).
With each morning visit comes a new request. First, Stefano borrows one of our Mac power cords because, of course, he has lost his. The next morning, when we greet him, he asks to rifle through the bottom drawer of the apartment’s sideboard to find an extra TV remote; his girlfriend has misplaced hers (or perhaps it was he).
“You rented my apartment for your holiday in Rome, and all you see is my face,” he laments.
On the third morning, Stefano declares, “Definitely tomorrow—by then the new machines will definitely arrive.” But then it snows and all of Rome stops, including the delivery truck carrying our new appliances.
After yet a few more days, there’s a knock at our door late one afternoon. There stands an ebullient Stefano with a new fridge, TV, and washing machine in the hallway. We set aside our plan to eat in and leave Stefano and the long-awaited machinery by themselves while we set out to find dinner. When we return later that evening, the new television hangs on the wall and the refrigerator hums away, snugly in place. But the new washer is noisily dancing across the bathroom’s tile floor and, just as we arrive, bangs against the far wall as yet another load of Stefano’s laundry steadily spins in the machine.
Ah, Stefano, I think, thanks to you, Italy continues to be a funny place that always makes us laugh. What will your knock tomorrow bring?