Think about the alternative. You come back from your journey and tell your friends and family that you encountered no flights delays, no bad meals, no lost or stolen personal items, no bed bugs at your hotel, and not a drop of rain fell on your head. How do they respond to this tale of no-woe-at-all? By yawning.
There is no danger that you will nod off reading Ballou’s Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler’s Tales. Instead, you want to yell “No, Linda don’t go there!’ or “Linda, whatever we’re you thinking?”, or “Watch out, Linda! Watch out!”
Linda’s travels have taken her on a wide path across much of the globe. One of the reason I enjoyed her book such much is that I have actually ventured—albeit as a less adventurous traveler—to several of the places she writes about in Alaska, Arizona, the British Virgin Islands, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, and Wyoming.
In “Irish Mist” Ballou is—as often as the case in Lost Angel Walkabout—on horseback. She says “The Irish ride like they drive—with cheerful abandon!” Then she throws caution to the wind in the willows and goes on the equestrian equivalent of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”
While arm-chair travelers may deem Ballou possessed by a devil-may-care approach to danger on the road, to me her stories express a confident “What’s the big deal? I can do this!” attitude that probably comes from growing up in Southeast Alaska where self-sufficiency is an essential trait.
For example, when on a walk in a marshy area frequented by bears near Glacier Bay, Alaska, she found the tide beginning to rise rapidly and herself at risk of spending a cold night far from the comfort of her lodgings. She obviously lived to tell about her escape, so I’m not giving too much away be quoting from the penultimate paragraph of her story, “Bird Walk on the Wild Side,” while leaving you, the reader, to enjoy the final, humorous conclusion to it:
“My panic rose at the sight of matted areas of grass where large animals had bedded down the night before. I was over-heating from exertion and lectured myself out loud to stay focused, to mind each step, and to not hurry—twisting an ankle now would spell disaster. Keeping my center of gravity low, knees bent for balance on the boulders, I made a Groucho Marx exit through the marsh to the forest trailhead.”
Not all of Ballou’s travels involved risk of life and limb; some were emotionally challenging. In “Water Dogs,” she recounts a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands with her mother. It was not their first trip together, and she writes:
“Traveling with Mom is like swimming in embryonic soup. It’s as though the cells that once divided and multiplied seek to rejoin themselves. A calm feeling, like being rocked in the lap of creation, fills me when I hold her hand. Our hearts beat in perfect rhythm. I feel grounded in the presence of my eternal witness, the only person who has been waiting for me at the end of all of my twisted adventures.”
But this time, it was stress, not calm, that both mother and daughter encountered. Her mother, who had wanted for years to make this trip, became frustrated when neither swim fins nor mask fit properly, thwarting her initial attempts at snorkeling. The story has a happy ending in the water that involves food—hot dogs— but you will have to buy the book to learn how this humble American wiener saved the day and the trip.