Vagabonding Through Retirement: Unusual Travels Far from Our Paris Houseboat
Reviewed by Mike Keenan, What Travel Writers Say
Vagabonding Through Retirement: Unusual Travels Far from Our Paris Houseboat chronicles the adventures of Bill and Ina Garrison Mahoney, free spirits who learned about the world through the eyes of people of other cultures.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with the authors' great sense of humour and adventure.
They capture our attention immediately with this lively description - "The minute I saw her (a Dutch houseboat called Zwerver-Dutch for wanderer) I was smitten. She was an old, sixty-five-foot leeboard sailboat with a round bow-they don't make those anymore."
The book chronicles life on the road, a globe-trotting couple who enjoy getting off the beaten track, meeting myriad people, and exploring how others live around the world.
The key to success is Bill's passion for learning new languages, which he does in exchange for French or English lessons, an ingenious barter system geared to facilitate travel and embrace foreign culture. Bill tried to learn all he could about the people with whom he was visiting, while Ina focused on their culture. Bill also displays resourcefulness from the start, acquiring a berth for his boat when none was available.
"One of the most rewarding parts of learning other countries language is to watch the eyes (of others) sparkle and the faces light up when they hear a few sentences in their language," says Bill. "It is an open password to gaining acceptance and their interest in getting (to know) more about you. This interest grows when it is a more obscure language like Swahili or a difficult one like Arabic or Hungarian. In any case their reception is invariably warm."
Vagabonding Through Retirement explains why one should commit to adventure - no matter your age, because priceless lessons are learned when spending time in other cultures. It also illustrates how to travel on the cheap, saving money yet seeing the world. Although it's a book about retiree travel, the adventurous nature of Bill and Ida makes it a unique memoir told with warm humour as they explore foreign landscapes.
They spend five days on a leaky salt barge up the Mekong in Laos and travel for three days on a bamboo raft in Thailand. In Bolivia, they go down the world's most dangerous roads and take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. And they set out in their camping van for Prague and Bucharest before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and travel to the Ukraine just after the Soviet Union breaks apart. There are interesting chapters on Morocco, China, Australia, USSR, Thailand, Laos, Bali, Cambodia, France, Romania, Ukraine, Vietnam, Turkey, Peru and Bolivia.
Bill hitchhiked across the country working odd jobs at the early age of thirteen. He sailed the Atlantic in the merchant marine and the Pacific in the navy. He hopped trolleys, trucks, automobiles, and trains. He graduated from adult high school and earned his B.A. at UCLA and an M.A. at Boston University. He taught world history in Paris for ten years. His second book, Is Muldoon Still in Paris, recounts his aberrant childhood and a third book, Mission Paris will appear soon. Bill speaks five languages but can tell a story in a dozen others.
Ina grew up in the small Texas town of Blooming Grove. She graduated from Southwestern University with a BA in speech and drama and an MA from the University of Houston. She went to France in 1958 with a one-year leave of absence from her teaching job in Victoria, Texas. When she returned to the U.S. to live five years ago, she had to begin learning how to live as an American once again.
Vagabonding Through Retirement: Unusual Travels Far from Our Paris Houseboat can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through all major booksellers
Mike Keenan writes for Postmedia Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune, Niagara Falls Review and Seniors Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.