“All Over the Place” is a travel book, except that the travel is at least as much internal as it is external. Geraldine DeRuiter has transformed her popular blog, The Everywhereist, into a book that chronicles her trajectory from unemployment to travel blogger to brain-tumor-survivor to someone who’s come to understand her family, her marriage, and herself. Well, at least a little bit better than she did before.
As she freely admits at the beginning of the book, this isn’t the kind of travel writing that explains to you how to save money in Sweden or avoid food poisoning in Fiji. Instead, it’s the kind of travel writing where the trips serve as jumping-off points for musings on the meaning of life. If that sounds heavy, stuffy, or boring, it’s not: DeRuiter’s zany sense of humor comes bubbling out irrepressibly at every juncture, whether she’s describing her mother’s attempt to bring a pickax through airport security shortly after 9/11 (I may have cried a little during that scene, I laughed so hard), or the difficulties she and her husband face to preserve the happy state of their marriage under the pressure of her recovery from brain surgery and his inhumanly long work hours. There are also stories of her semi-successful attempts to understand her parents, both immigrants to the US, by returning to their original or adopted hometowns in Italy and Germany, as well as various alcohol-fueled bathroom mishaps in restaurants and hotels. Although the madcap adventures are presented in non-chronological order, the book’s trajectory traces a gentle arc from 20-something Geraldine’s neuroses to 30-something Geraldine’s slightly calmer and more accepting approach to life, as she comes to the important realization that getting lost is not the worst thing that can happen to you, and sometimes it might take you where you really need to go. In turns heartwarming and hilarious, “All Over the Place” is one of the best travel books I’ve read in a long time.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.