|Image from http://samanthasotto.com|
You might be wondering how a novel found its way in a travel blog. While it is brimming with romance, the more than hundreds of pages of Before Ever After are screaming TRAVEL.
Before Ever After introduces us to the motley happy campers of The Slight Detour led by its scruffy guide with amber eyes Maximilian B. Gallus. The vintage electric-blue Volkswagen van with a disco ball inside was a prelude to a "not your usual tourist trap" that they are about to embark. The novel takes us to certain points in our history's timeline set against picturesque towns and cities across Europe. It allows us to get lost and soak in the vivid descriptions of places and accounts of past events, and come out of it enriched and wanting to chart the next vacation following the same route.
Emmental Valley, Ljubljana, Ercolano. These places are most likely not to be found in top-of-the-list destinations. But these were made more interesting by the tales of basilisk and Swiss mercenaries, of the lonely River Man and of a population which did not even have a term to denominate a land mass which we now come to know as the volcano.
Even popular cities like Paris, Vienna and Venice have their own share of hidden treasures often overlooked by many. Who would have thought that a mug of Guinness goes well with Seine or that better coffee is often served in cafés with ruder staff? And the hype over Venice? Yes, there are islands worth exploring beyond Piazza San Marco. Because I did just that although not to the island of Torcello.
I wonder how the author Samantha Sotto chose the backdrop for her first-born. Were these her favorite pit stops when she traipsed Europe during her teenage years? Or was it because it simply fitted into the off-the-beaten-path theme?
The novel reminded me of my own travels in Europe four to six years ago. While I did what newbies would do of flashing wide grins next to famous landmarks, what made my trips memorable were the misadventures I had, the interaction with the locals and blending in the daily scene, the nirvana in obscure haunts and the gastronomic feasts (from the ordinary kötbullar to the swanky formal dinners where the hosts painstakingly prepared the dishes).
And since this book is published and released internationally, it is a good thing that a part of the story was set in Boracay (although I am not a big fan of Boracay after it has transformed into a metropolitan island) because it is a good come-on for those who have not been or worse, have not heard of the Philippines. For now, The Shell will do.
I love the novel for the travelogue it has become more than the tale of immortality. As I reached the last page, I smiled for another dose of inspiration and a chance to explore worlds beyond my reading nook without spending a single centavo. And the adventure of Max, Shelley and the rest of the campers resonated my travel mantra of allowing my pair of feet to take the lead and to enjoy the thrill in visiting old, familiar places and getting lost in new territories.