Vicki Kuyper allows readers brief but powerfully poignant glimpses into her exotic and wondrous journeys by depicting these marvelous destinations in vivid technicolor detail. This travel-savvy author describes how unfamiliar sights, smells and experiences affect her internally --- both spiritually and emotionally --- often causing an eruption of past memories to swell to the surface.
Kuyper tells of her first impressions of places near and far as encountered at the age of eight via the library's bookmobile. Here, she discovered that actual world wonders were more magical than fairy tales or other make-believe fantasies. At age 16, Kuyper was a "willing stowaway" on her father's business trip, where for three glorious weeks her family traveled to such destinations as Egypt, Casablanca, Paris and Africa.
The traveling bug must have bitten hard, for Kuyper’s dearest wish during a 10-month stint in Italy as a college student was to eventually "...get married, have kids, travel, and write." At the time it seemed an unlikely scenario to Kuyper, who, instead of following her grandmother's advice to lose a bit of weight in order to get a man, put on 40 pounds in the months living above a bakery in Italy. But that incidental setback didn't stop her from looking to God as the molder of her identity.
During those months in Assisi, Italy, when she was so uncertain of her future, Kuyper studied the city's namesake, Saint Francis, and how, like Francesco, she too fought conflicting inner battles. She lends readers her memories of the place, its people and its impact upon her own conflicted wrestling with God and the dreams He placed within her heart. Before leaving for her home in America, she realized a renewal of purpose and hope in the largess of God, of his ability to make "large her plans" and not to underestimate what surprises the future may hold.
Kuyper's visits have had her traversing to 40 countries worldwide --- journeys that taught her many lifelong lessons. While struggling to hike The Inca Trail in Peru, she fought down the past demons of feeling small, weak and dependent, and wanting to disappear. Then along came the group's guide, Manolo, who encouraged her to learn the "walk of the patient one," being patient with yourself.
Riding atop an elephant in Thailand, Kuyper found a novel way to communicate with her elephant's handler: by singing along to his whistling a tune of John Denver's. In Iona, Scotland, she realized that God's purpose for her life "was less like a job description and more like a chain of choices, a strong link being forged each time I chose God's way over my own."
In every chapter, Kuyper ties a destination with a lesson and then offers readers some thoughtful introspective questions for later consideration. Travelers --- armchair and otherwise --- will find themselves enchanted with her fascinating stories, historical newsy tidbits and folklore trivia while similarly discovering gentle biblical truth enmeshed in each narrative.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on September 4, 2007