Review

A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World a True Life Adventure Story

by Isabel Losada

Isabel Losada wears many hats: single mom, writer, traveler, and now newly christened activist. Journey with Losada as she tells of the seemingly endless trials and tribulations as a wannabe activist fighting for the religious freedom of Tibet. Interesting choice. Yet when the author explains her reasoning behind backing this particular cause, readers will fall into her line of thinking with a natural acceptance simply because Losada is so charming and sincere. Her expression of sadness over the rising regularity of terrorism worldwide is so commonly felt, so consistently lamented, that when Losada poses the premise of fighting the war on terror with nonviolence, it makes sense. Who then is the leading proponent of nonviolence? The Dalai Lama, of course. Losada determines that he's the man for her --- and on this basis Losada begins her story, her journey toward social activism.

Making use of the famed serenity prayer, Losada divides her text into three main sections. Part One: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..." Recognizing that she has never done much besides navel-gazing, Losada decides to invest some time in protesting outside the Chinese Embassy, a not particularly auspicious beginning. Next, the author starts investigating, interviewing, and finally traveling to Tibet. Waking up in Kathmandu, Losada details in comical fashion the advice passed along to her from a girl in the know from Tibet: Never squat down in the bushes on the Nepalese side of the Himalayas. Leeches have a way of attaching themselves. Before you know it, you're pouring with blood.

Sounds enchanting. Not to be daunted, Losada repeatedly hears the warning of altitude sickness, which can kill you. More seriously, though, were the injunctions to take extreme care in how one speaks to the Tibetan people regarding their loyalty to the Dalai Lama. And never, ever, hand out photos of the Dalai Lama as they're illegal. Losada does indeed travel and immerse herself in Tibetan culture where she sees both beauty and evil side by side, incongruously thriving together. Hard to accept.

"The courage to change the things I can..." comprises the second part of Losada's tale as she begins making advances in practical activism without much initial success. From approaching the Free Tibet Campaign organization to requesting and receiving an interview with a member of Parliament, from setting up a company, a website, to delving into the nitty-gritty of fundraising via parachuting for donations, Losada makes even the most dreary activities both humorous and sobering.

Finally, in Part Three, "And the wisdom to the know the difference..." Losada's journey becomes at once more introspective and profound as she receives an invitation to meet with the Dalai Lama. It is this portion of the text alone that will likely bring the most fascination to readers. Losada takes her time to carefully unfold the details of this once in a lifetime encounter and the results are most satisfying.

While Losada communicates with regular dashes of humor and wit, she likewise is serious about making a difference in the world. Even the most socially complacent readers will glean tips on how vital doing "one's bit" is to a better, safer, more peaceful world. As the Dalai Lama so succinctly states, "If the individual acts, society is changed."

Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011

A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World a True Life Adventure Story
by Isabel Losada

  • Publication Date: May 31, 2005
  • Genres: Autobiography, Christian, Travel
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne
  • ISBN-10: 006078010X
  • ISBN-13: 9780060780104