Kiwi Tracks

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kiwi Tracks
A New Zealand Journey
by Andrew Stevenson

Kiwi Tracks is about the author’s adventure trekking through New Zealand and it wavers between self-pitying and optimism thought out the book. He’s so negative in the first half that it was hard to remain interested. He writes more about his loneliness and the breakup that preceded the trip than about the location or his experiences there. The second half was drastically better. He finally gets past his loneliness and begins to reflect on the gorgeous land around him and the kind people who live there. 

I love how he talks about the unexpected deep connections you sometimes form with travelers on the same path. He also touches on the intense but often indescribable experiences you can have while traveling. You’re never truly able to explain them to others once you return home, but they stay with you forever. Stevenson’s journey was a solitary one and he talks about the self-reflection that a trip like that encourages. It can be both wonderful and painful in equal measures.

I did appreciate his honesty about the bad travel days. Sometimes you are lonely or incredibly sick or you miss your train, all of that is part of travel. It’s not all rainbows and brilliant experiences, but those bad spots make everything else shine a bit brighter. My favorite parts of the book are his descriptions of the incredible things he saw and the details he provides about the history of the country. I loved learning more about the native Maori people.

BOTTOM LINE: I definitely recommend this one if you’re about to travel to New Zealand, which is why I read it. Otherwise skip it, because there are better travel memoirs out there with less moaning about life. The author was so depressed and that came through in every page of his writing. I like it when the author’s personality comes through, but I still want to learn about the area or hear about what they did/saw there. It can’t all be their internal monologue as they reflect on their own life choices. 

“Because I travelled alone, I have more intensely experienced a foreign culture and language in a country far, far away, and discovered an independence and courage I never knew I had before. Now I know better what I want and who I am.”


Brona said...

I read some Janet Frame and Katherine Mansfield before heading to NZ.

Once Were Warriors (contemporary Maori book & movie) was very illuminating but not very cheerful.

Janet was not a very happy 'voice' either - maybe there is a pattern here?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brona - I really think there is a pattern. I've read some Mansfield as well and also, The Whale Rider and The Bone People, all New Zealand books and all pretty dark.