Book Review: The Winter of Our Disconnect

The irony of a blog being called ‘I should log off’ has never been “lost” on us. As we traveled the world we always felt like we wanted to log off more often but couldn’t because we were so focused on our blog about logging off. It was our paradox.

Disconnecting and logging off….that’s why this book appealed to me so much.

Winter of our Disconnect Book Review: The Winter of Our DisconnectI hate how connected I am and yet it still feels like such a necessity. When The Winter of our Disconnect arrived in the mail (a gift for completing an online survey) I dove right in. The book is a first person narrative of an American woman trying to raise her three kids in Australia. She is a journalist by trade and this figures strongly into her desire to cut loose and disconnect, as well as the challenges she faces.

The author realizes the need for disconnecting and sets out ground rules for 6 months of electric free living. The means, cutting all electricity. Cold showers, no phones and no Internet. She receives both blank stares and accolades from her friends and family. Her children feel differently at the start and, once they actually understand what is happening, aren’t at all too pleased with it. They are permitted to use electricity outside of the house and they use this time to email and send messages but inside the house they are suddenly forced to behave….as a family.

The author’s son makes the largest change. Without his game system he suddenly feels the need to dig up his old saxophone. He learns to play again and manages to join a band. By the end of the 6 months he misses his game unit but also takes a moment to remark to his mother that he wonders how good he’d be if he’d spent all those years playing sax instead of video games. The family cohesion grows as well. The dog gets walked far more often and more time is spent relaxing and playing games than ever before. Suddenly it is cool to sit and hang out together for an evening and bonding feels natural rather than forced like so many a family outing.

This is the kind of book that makes you examine what is important in your life and the changes you might need to make to become happier. At times it seems more newspaper article than narrative but changes that come through this book are all feel good stuff. Sure, it would be near impossible for many of us to cut all electricity from our homes for 6 months but the point of this book is that not only is it not impossible, but it can be easier and better than you’d think. In the meantime, the book concludes with a few ‘commandments’ of how we can better live with electricity, but that will come to you via this blog another day.

Disclosure:  We received no compensation for this review but the links contained above are affiliate links and we will earn a commission if you click them and purchase a copy of the book.

A Beach Bum’s Tale of Survival

[Ed. Note: Today’s guest post comes to us from John Rarity, author of the new book-  “Working Beach Bum A Beach Bums Tale of Survival“, now available at Amazon.com.  John’s giving away a copy of his book to one of our lucky readers- check out our facebook page on Monday, November 7th for giveaway rules and instructions!  Contest ends November 21st!]

Why does anybody do anything worth doing? This was a question posed to me by my favorite college History professor.  I suppose he had plenty of examples to choose from, in terms of people having done something worth doing.  They made history, after all.

So, there I was, boarding a one-way flight from Texas to Maui. Not sure what to expect but full of expectations, I at least knew one thing for certain – there were definitely going to be a few sweet ass beaches there when I arrived.  And there were.

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I launched on the development of “Working Beach Bum” because I was curious and enthralled with picturesque beach scene, and too young and broke to want to wait for the right time.  I’d forgone the law degree in lieu of one that actually appealed to me – freelance work, i.e. semi-employment, or unemployment, depending on how you looked at it.  Bottom line, I worked for myself, and although the financial consequences of doing so were to live primarily a frugal lifestyle, the freedom and liberty of calling my own shots emboldened me.  This combined with a love affair with writing and travel, and developing “Working Beach Bum” was a no brainer!  I was off, but it wasn’t easy.

I had started with only $1,000, barely enough to cover my first month’s rent plus expenses when I arrived in Maui.  At least until I could cash my first paycheck from a job that was, as of the moment of my departure, undetermined.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely oblivious to the powers of the internet and in fact did use it to email my dad’s cousin and help line-up a few job opportunities.  Regardless, knowing what my options were and acting on them would have to wait until I was on the island.

After a couple of months on Maui, I set off for Oahu, where I wasn’t as lucky in the job department – but there were sweet ass beaches there too!  The book eventually chronicles how I landed jobs and managed to put a roof over my head, as I explored the shorelines of my dream U.S. beach destinations: Hawaii, California, Florida and Puerto Rico.  I’d done it.  I had set off with a beach bum’s budget and not only survived, but in the end thrived my way from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the emerald green shores of the Caribbean Sea.  I had met people, shared experiences and most of all proved to myself that living a dream – regardless of the practicality – is a worthy endeavor of the highest calling.

My ultimate hope is that “Working Beach Bum” manages to amuse and inspires its readers to take the leap and experience the trip of their lives.  I did, and I’ll never regret it.

You can check out John’s book, now for sale on Amazon.com.

Bio: John Rarity has covered beach destinations all over the U.S., Thailand, Australia and beyond, developing his knowledge and skills in budget travel.  He is also founder and currently heads GoStayPlay.com, a social travel deals and events website.  Check him out on his Blog, Twitter or on Facebook.

Book: The White Man’s Burden…

The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good

whitemansburden Book: The White Mans Burden...

Why in the age of Twitter and immediate communication with the other side of the world we can’t seem to eliminate the millions of hungry bellies?

Traveling provokes two different responses, a simple emotional response and hopefully,  a deeper understanding of the complexity of the problems we face in this world.   If you go to Africa or rural South America you’ll understand why throwing money at the problem doesn’t help.  I read this book, and although like many academic works it could be condensed into a twenty page summary, I couldn’t help but agree.

This book was recommended to us in Africa. You can imagine that the conversation was sparked by what we saw around us, we were frustrated at the “aid” work we saw all over the continent. In fact, it prompted us to write a series of posts about what we termed Hunger Porn. Travel to a developing country and you’ll be hard pressed not to see these organizations driving around in their white SUVs emblazoned with a fancy logo, not stopping to think of the impoverished people left to choke on the dust.

Although Easterly is critical in his depiction and analysis of humanitarian aid, he’s not off base. Actually he’s pretty much right on target in my book. An economics professor at NYU and a former research economist at the World Bank, Easterly depicts how aid strategies and organizations assume they know what’s best for everyone, and how this keeps a vicious cycle of money and failure going. This post-modern colonialism (hence the title of the book which was based on Ruyard Kipling’s poem “The White Mans Burden” about Victorian colonialism) in Easterly’s opinion never really addresses the need for feedback and flexibility. Breaking “do-gooders” into two groups: the planners, who plan things to work and the searchers, who find things that work.

His argument makes a lot of sense once you’ve been to a developing country. Traveling, living or working there can give you the same perspective as his book, but he backs it up with charts and facts. The book is acerbic but straightforward and you don’t need to have paid attention in Economics 101 to understand his thesis. It’s actually pretty well written too, which is more than I can say about the academic work written by some of my undergraduate professors.

Admittedly this book is a few years old, and today I see many development organizations trying to address the need for feedback and accountability, but this is a great place to start to understand the historical failures of aid. Trust me, if you’ve wondered about how effective these programs are, you’ll want to read this book.

You can buy White Man’s Burden at Amazon.com.

Books: International Women’s Day

Admittedly I hadn’t heard of International Women’s Day before traveling overseas. It’s not commonly celebrated in the USA, shocking considering the idea for a women’s day started with our women’s rights and suffragette movements over 100 years ago.

How easily we forget.uzbekwoman Books: International Womens Day

At any point in time, there are regions in the world undergoing political or social upheaval. Right now our global focus has been on the Middle East. Although we’ve focused our attention on the political change, one of the emerging stories is the social and cultural changes taking place, especially regarding women. Recently I read Paradise Beneath Her Feet Books: International Womens Day, by Isobel Coleman, a book about how women are changing the Greater Middle East. Fitting given current political and social situation, the book traces the rise of the Islamic Feminism movement and its growing impact.

It is easy to stereotype and assume that veiled women are oppressed by their religion, but Coleman dispels these misconceptions and stereotypes. The premise of her book is that much of the gender oppression we see in Islam is not part of the Qur’an. BookParadiseBeneathHerFeet 105x150 Books: International Womens DayColeman tells an inspiring and engaging story about how religion is being used to improve the status of women in five of perhaps the most misunderstood societies in the world: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It’s a interesting look at a fascinating topic and it broadened my thinking about Islam and the strive for gender equality.

We’ve forgotten how many people still strive for gender equality in this world. As we go about our daily business we forget that there are women out there who aren’t allowed to drive, don’t have access to working outside their home and have little access to formal education. We 5009115952 a182e94c84 Books: International Womens Dayforget that women fortunate enough to have access to formal education might live in a society where higher education is frowned upon or where they might not have the freedom to express themselves. We forget that these women could have easily been us. These women live in countries all over the globe. They come from all sorts of religions, ethnic groups and backgrounds. Their lives are shaped not necessarily by the choices they make, but by the choices that are made for them.

How easily we forget.
International Women’s Day is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. You can find more information about global celebrations at: http://www.internationalwomensday.com.

If you’re interested in reading Paradise Beneath Her Feet, check it out (it’s on sale) on Amazon!