Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: 360 Degrees Longitude

I read this book as part of my local book club.  It was not a book I probably would have chosen off the shelf and to be honest, when I first heard what it was about, I didn't think I would like it.  But I gave it a read anyway and was wrong--I really liked it.

This is the story of the Higham family--John, his wife, September, and their two children, Katrina and Jordan.  The kids were 11 and 8 at the beginning of the book, respectively.  The book follows their year-long journey traveling around the world, a trip they had planned and saved for over 10 years.

They began their journey in Iceland, traveling on to Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America.  As much as possible, the Highams tried to travel as locals and either camped or stayed in hostels at most places they visited.  Along the way, they met unforeseen obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes dangerous situations. 

The story is told from the perspective of John, with occasional excerpts from the travel journals of Katrina and Jordan.  John is very witty and I found myself giggling throughout the book at his observations and comments.  His writing style alone made the book worth reading.  Although not the most "formal" or cohesive of writers, he was very entertaining.

One of the neatest aspects of the book was the ability to follow their travels on Google Earth.  You followed the link and were able to read extras as well as see pictures of the different places they visited.  I stayed up until midnight last night just looking at their photos on Google!

Like any good book, this one made me think.  First of all, I thought they were a little crazy to take an 8 year old and 11 year old on a year-long trip around the world!  But then I thought about all the instances of poverty he discussed.  It's easy to dwell on what we don't have, when compared to most of the world's population, we in the United States are extremely wealthy.  At one point in the book, he said the tourists in the poor African countries spend in one day what is often a years worth of wages to the locals.  That's hard to imagine. 

There are certain places in the world (such as Switzerland, Czech Republic) that I have always wanted to visit.  The book reinforced my wish to visit those places.  There are other places that I do not wish to visit (China) and the book confirmed those feelings.  It also made me add a few places to my list of locations I would like to visit someday (the Incan trail in Peru). 

I admire the Highams for their travels and for leaving behind all the activities that seem to be beneficial (Little League, church, PTO, etc.) but instead sometimes seem to eat away at time together as a family.  I wish I could be that adventurous but don't think I could camp that long or stay in some of the places they stayed in!

I really enjoyed this book and am glad it was recommended.

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