08 August 2012

Travel Reading: The Adventures of Bindi Girl

Long before traveling to India became de rigueur for everyone who's ever taken a yoga class, Erin Reese had begun combing the entire subcontinent in her quest for a deeper, decidedly unWestern, experience of life. In her first book, The Adventures of Bindi Girl: Diving Deep Into the Heart of India,  Erin presents the full picture of longterm travel in a destination that is usually either glorified or vilified. Erin takes readers to the heights of India's attributes—the sights, smells, sounds, mountains, cities, islands, festivals, colors and colorful people—and also to the depths of the country's underbelly. Erin's accomplished storytelling is underscored by her voice—crisp, quirky, funny, often biting, always original.

During her years in India, Erin has spent the requisite time in ashrams, Vipassana centers and sitting at the feet of her Guru. She's also lived the life of an Indian beach bum, had love affairs and traveled by train and ship 3rd-class (which, trust me, requires serious kahunas). Erin's budget traveling style (generally, under $5 a day) comes with an enormous payoff for Erin and her readers. Instead of throwing money at India in an attempt to make her experience more comfortable, she finds a way to experience all of India for as few rupees as possible. Her resourcefulness leads to alternatively scary, disgusting, comical and truly heartwarming situations. I would bet few Westerners know India's geography, culture and people as well as Erin does.

Besides entertaining, The Adventures of Bindi Girl also enlightens. Readers travel along with Erin as she follows her intuition from Rishikesh (a Himalayan foothill mecca for Western travelers) to the beaches of South India. Readers get to know the eclectic group of fellow travelers who join Erin for stretches of her journey. And while spirituality plays a huge role in Erin's Indian discoveries, the book remains adventuresome in tone and experience.

Anyone—especially solo travelers—who has been to India will LOVE The Adventures of Bindi Girl. Finally, you'll have someone to laugh with over the billions of absurdities encountered daily in India. If you're planning a trip to India, you must read this book. It is the best book out there for getting a solid feel of the country.

Erin does things in a way I could not imagine doing them (her budget, her willingness to take overnight buses and trains from one end of the country to the other, her considerable time spent in Bombay and Calcutta, places I avoid completely). She has had the richest, sexiest, funniest experience of India that is available in book form.

The Adventures of Bindi Girl is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon.


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