Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with Lisa Egle, otherwise known to her online followers as “Chickybus,” which is also the name of her blog. I’ve read hundreds of travel blogs over the past five years, and hers is one of my favorites. Lisa is a born storyteller, and I’m a big fan of her writing style. So when Lisa recently published her travel memoirs, Magic Carpet Seduction: Travel Tales Off the Beaten Path (available on Kindle), I couldn’t wait to read it.
From the moment I picked up (okay, downloaded) the book, I was hooked. It’s written in the first person in a very engaging style, with vivid descriptions of people and places and just the right amount of tension about what’s going to happen next to keep you moving from chapter to chapter. I felt as though I was traveling right alongside her every step of the way—through every grubby chicken bus ride, through every mad dash across crazy lanes of traffic in foreign cities, through the marketplaces of Turkey. Lisa’s trademark sense of humor makes regular appearances within the pages of the book, with funny interludes that had me laughing out loud. From beginning to end, it is one well-crafted tale after another, and they all come together to form a cohesive personal journey.
The book is broken down into sections, with different countries, or “rides” as the focus:
- In Changsha, China, Lisa teaches English to and forges friendships with students who may or may not be members of the Communist Party;
- In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, she and a friend encounter Romeos, eccentric characters, and a bizarre ride on a chicken bus;
- In Turkey, Lisa sleeps in a cave, learns what it’s like to travel with a very incompatible companion, and, despite her best efforts to avoid carpet casanovas, finds herself being seduced at every turn; and
- During travels to the Middle East, she lives with a Jordanian family, studies Arabic and acts as a movie extra in Syria, and finally, in the perfect wrap-up story, heads off on an adventure to find a mysterious hermit living in the mountains of Lebanon.
The subtitle to the book is apt; Lisa really does travel off the beaten path (sometimes way off), which allows her to meet locals on their turf and immerse herself in their lives in ways most of us will never do. She seems to genuinely like making connections with people, and she is a character magnet: Through her, you will meet all manner of quirky, oddball, dashing, romantic, sweet, and memorable characters who come to life in the pages of this book.
Reading this book was like dancing on the edge of a cliff for me—in a virtual sense, of course. As a traveler, I tend to stay firmly on the beaten path. Where I’m a very cautious traveler, Lisa is much more adventurous and open to new encounters with people she’s just met. I found myself a bit distressed several times during the book when she made choices I strongly disagreed with, because they didn’t feel safe to me. But obviously, she “lived to tell the tale,” and because she was willing to try things not all travelers would, she wound up with some awesome stories to tell.
In short, this book is a hell of a fun ride, and for those of us less adventurous than Lisa, a way to share those momentous experiences vicariously. You can get your own copy of Magic Carpet Seduction: Travel Tales Off the Beaten Path at Amazon for just $2.99. Believe me, that’s a steal for the hours of enjoyment you’ll get from it.