I've already written about my downfall with that book (long story short, didn't buy it out of fear of being judged, but saw the movie on a weekday morning in a theater with less than six people who were all older then me, so I win).
I opened the book with an optimism hangover and quickly realized this would not be the book that would send 40-something ladies to the airport with a duffel bag and passport in hand to start a mid-life adventure. This writer is younger than that (and, the age of my younger sister, if I had one). Her overseas adventure comes post-college and pre-30, a time when people don't look at you with sad eyes when you take such a trip. I found myself a bit jealous - the chance to just leave all your possessions in storage with no return date on the calendar is appealing to me, then I think of how much my dog would miss me (the cat wouldn't care) and I say to myself, "Someday..." When that day does come, I have a more realistic idea of what awaits me. Thanks to the paranoid/sarcastic Ms. Shukert, I now know:
- Americans are apologists. I would imagine things were different shortly after World War II, when Americans were celebrated (if that's not true, every war movie/mini-series I have ever seen has told horrible lies), but now, if you go to Europe, you have to apologize for The State of The World. Can I just go on record as saying I have NEVER waged war on any country. I have engaged in my own Holy War against idiots, bigots, racists, hippies and bugs. So, when I do make my own little adventure, let's make a deal, Europe: I won't question your metric system if you don't blame me for the never ending war on terror.
- Europeans don't understand sarcasm. English is a tricky language. Get cheeky and there's a good chance you'll be called a "stupid American" or worse - the natives will just speak louder while silently hating you. Because sarcasm is my twin sister, I cannot imagine leaving home with out her. Even if it means I can't buy the croissant. Or sausage (COME ON, EUROPE! You people will eat any kind of sausage and don't even find that a wee-bit funny? Yet, you think Jerry Lewis and The Hoff are amazing. Culture, my ass!). Or whatever.
- Foreskin is rampant. This was a very, um, interesting and informative - yeah, that's the word. If you are planning on having "the sex" on your adventure, you might want to at the very least buy this book for that lesson. Don't Google it. You might get pictures - and if you're at work, you might get fired. Guys, if you're still reading this, you can uncross your legs now.
- Single ladies are often mistaken for prostitutes. This doesn't surprise me much. I guess because this happens here, in the great U.S. of A. Sit at a bar and have a drink by yourself and some creep will start conversation that, if you don't end it quickly, will eventually become a negotiation. Now, if you're looking for a free drink or a few extra bucks, I suppose this is just fine. However, perhaps it's having a father who is a police officer, but I'm not taking drinks from strangers and I'm certainly not going home/to a hotel with one. I also work in news, so I know this can go from a fun tale for girlfriends to the lead story on a newscast in less than 30 seconds. Ladies, you've been warned.
- You should not attempt to navigate Dutch streets if you get remotely motion sick or need street names with five letters or less. The street system runs in a circle! I guess when they designed Amsterdam 500 years ago (or whenever, I'm not that great with the history), they spun a top to choose directions. And a street name should not have more letters than are on your fingers and toes. That's my lazy American speaking.
- Sex traffickers are smooth recruiters. There's a naive part of me that thinks sex traffickers are only interested in girls under the age of 25. If they're targeting American girls, they should watch 16 and Pregnant to see that age does not necessarily equal virginity. Still, if you find yourself with a smooth-talking guy who wants to "show you something at his place" know that one of two things could happen: it could be the last time you're seen in public before you're sold into sex slavery, where you will meet a man older than your father who has just paid a whole lot of money to do things to you that will make you wish for instant death; or, you're about to meet a transvestite (doesn't happen in this book, but a line like that won't have a happy ending - at least not for you).
- The Dutch love them some Phil Collins. This reminds me a bit of Nashville. When I went there, people were saying it's "The Athens of The South." The best explanation I got was that there are, like, 500 colleges and universities there. No one that Ms. Shukert spoke with could give a reasonable explanation for their love of Mr. Collins. If I was in a place where everything came to a stop every single time one of his songs came on, I'd be screaming "Take Me Home!" and not in tribute to the singer. Don't get me wrong, I like a Phil Collins/Genesis tune every now and then, but "Sussudio" is so NOT my jam. Cute the first time you hear it, but when it becomes part of the daily soundtrack of life, there is not enough alcohol to make me forget it.
- I will never relate to Anne Frank. I remembering reading about Anne Frank in school and thinking she was so strong to fight for her family like that. But now that I'm an adult, I wonder how she could spend that much time with her family in such a tight space without killing anyone. I was recently offered a trip with my family (something I don't really remember doing as a child for longer than a weekend) and had to bow out, not because I feared four of us would not make it back, but because of stupid work. But if I did not have that valid excuse, I would be afraid my homicidal tendencies would surface and I might go after someone - maybe not a loved one, but the first person who was not nice to me would probably disappear (and in my mind, I'm like a vampire, capable of leaving no trace, but the reality is that I would be busted before that victim took a last breath - don't worry, I'm not a killer). I love my family, but I don't know if there's a hotel big enough for us to travel together.
The book is not all travel-tippy. It does have some fun stories about Ms. Shukert's misadventures. There is also some dabbling in love - and, like that girlfriend who knows no good can come of it, I found myself talking into the pages warning her, but it didn't matter because it had already happened and books don't talk back.
If you're too young for Eat Pray Love, you might try this book. It will at the very least entertain you. There is some eating, praying and loving happening here. But it is not the sort that will make you scream, "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU? THESE PEOPLE LOVE YOU AND YOU'RE TOO SELFISH TO LET THEM IN!" like EPL. Also, not everyone gets to check out of life for a year on a publisher's dime, so this is more feasible for most of you - so long as you can find someone to hire you. And if you do set out to follow this plan, do yourself a favor and have some health insurance. Otherwise, you might wind up the unwilling partner in a threesome.
Don't say I (or Ms. Shukert) didn't warn you.