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Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World    by Rita Golden Gelman order for
Tales of a Female Nomad
by Rita Golden Gelman
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tales of a Female Nomad was given to me by an old friend, to whom I sent postcards from all around the world in my B.K. (Before Kids) life 'to remind you of all your own exotic travels'. I enjoyed it very much, but I must admit that it made my feet extremely itchy. The author, Rita Golden Gelman, has a master's degree in anthropology and has written over 70 children's books. She re-invented herself in middle age and discovered the joys of travelling (and living) all over the world.

I appreciated the author's honesty about the trepidation that precedes many of the best travel experiences. I was impressed by her ability to connect with people and to improvise to make difficult travel connections, 'constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities'. It starts in 1985 with the feeling that she is 'living in a designer world that has been designed for someone I no longer am.' She takes a break (which turns out to be permanent) from her marriage and ends up living in a Zapotec village in Mexico. There she discovers what it takes to connect with local people as 'I walked into a foreign world where people were afraid of me, and I walked out with hugs and waves and even a few tears.'

Next comes Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where the author relates to villagers by assisting a Juggler. She looks for roots in Israel and instead finds 'individuals, like people everywhere.' I was especially envious when I read of her time in the Galapagos Islands, high on my own list of unvisited destinations. Then there is the Borneo forest and an Orangutan Camp, followed by years in a palace in Bali, where she forms a special friendship with its prince, Tu Aji. While trekking in Irian Jaya, Gelman and her companions share songs in the villages, and she shares bubbles with a child in the interior. The author goes on to make the same kinds of connection (though language is easier) in Vancouver, Seattle and New Zealand. This is followed by a culinary stint in Thailand 'speaking food' - mouth-watering dishes like ho mo, 'laced with kaffir lime strips and sitting in basil. It is pure heaven.'

Rita Golden Gelman ends by revealing her intent to keep living a nomadic life. She shares with her readers the wisdom acquired during fifteen years of travel (or perhaps it was this knowledge that prompted the journeying in the first place) ... 'One of the most important things I have learned ... is how to enjoy and savor the present' in which 'people are still my passion'. Tales of a Female Nomad is a wonderful book told by an impressive woman. But be warned and open it at your own risk. It is likely to ignite the same passion for adventure in her readers.

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