Post Graduate Automotive Disasters

A few weeks ago I donned the medieval regalia and received my BA. Well, sort of. They don’t actually give you a diploma at graduation, at least not at my college. They hand you a big diploma book that has a letter inside it telling you that once they finish calculating your last semester’s grades they will mail it to you. So I’m still waiting for that.

When I turned eighteen I finally learned how to drive at the hands of the worst driving instructor in the history of the automobile. I saved my meager waitressing money and put up half the cash for a ’99 Subaru Impreza, my dad putting up the other half. It was a small, beige car with little tears in the vinyl on the sides of the seats and a windshield pitted with thousands of pinprick size blemishes in the glass as if it had been through a sandstorm. She was the first thing I really owned. My first big grown up purchase. I named her Dita. I learned to check and change her fluids. I learned how to navigate to places in spite of my anxiety over getting lost. She took me to college and shuttled me safely home each day.

I took two road trips with Dita. They were, I confess, tiny ones– just two or three hour drives, but it felt major. I drove out to New Jersey to spend a long weekend with Ge Ge when he was still living in the States. It was the first time I had arranged an overnight trip on my own and felt that first serge of scary but satisfying independence that comes from traveling somewhere on your own.

Then next road trip was with my dad and one of my other brothers. We went to Gettysburg to tour the battlefields, hang out in museums, and drink screw top wine in a motel room. Also a good trip.

She was old, but reliable. Her four-wheel drive came in handy on back country roads in the winter (though I still managed to very slowly slide into a telephone pole this past December taking out my light). When I first got her, I said I wanted her to last me through college at least. That was the goal.

Sometimes I am astounded at how literal the universe can be. Three days after I graduated I was rear-ended on my way home from the dentist. My mouth still numb from the heavy duty Novocaine they used on me (apparently my back molars are very nervy), I was waiting to turn onto the road out of town and back to my house. Apparently the man behind me didn’t see me waiting and he smashed into the back of me.

His insurance has deemed it too expensive to repair the damage and view it as a total loss. Rest in Peace Dita.

A view of the damage
A view of the damage

I’m alright, my neck was a bit sore for the first two days after the accident, but I’m better now. I’m not going to think about replacing the car until after I get back from Korea in August. Hopefully by then I’ll have a job.

Review: “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” by Rachel Friedman

I love a good travel memoir. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise– as a traveler and a writer, it brings together two of my favorite things. This particular book caught my interest last week and made for a great escape from my last week of finals (ever!).

Friedman tells the story of how after her junior year of college, she leaves her home and family to spend the summer in Ireland. After her life plans have been derailed, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She finds herself in Galway and in the company of Carly, an Australian adventurer of similar age.Image

The book chronicles her adventures with Carly over the next two years. After finishing college, Friedman spends the summer in Australia with Carly’s family. After that, the two women embark on adventure in South America- due to a visa issue, Friedman ends up in Bolivia, meeting up with Carly in Peru later.

This memoir reads like a novel. It’s fun, well paced and only took me two days to get through. Friedman is great at picking out small details that bring other travelers she meets to life. The human landscape gets just as much attention as the geographic one. The book is framed a bit like a classic adventure story or picaresque novel, each chapter with a tongue-in-cheek description of what events will be described within it as a preface. Friedman is also easy to relate to. She is not an experienced, fearless traveler. She is experiencing the terror and wonder of it all for the first time and letting you glimpse it too.

My only criticism is that some of Friedman’s wise revelations about the meaning of her journey feel forced or out of place in the moment she’s relating them. She tells her story in present tense, as if it’s happening right now, giving a sense of immediacy. Many of her philosophical realizations, no doubt happened later (as most realizations do). They feel a bit forced in the moment. She focuses more on her personal feelings and experiences than she does on any historical or cultural aspect of the places she travels to, which works for the novel style story-telling.

To be honest, the title sucks a bit too. It’s attention grabbing I suppose, but sounds a bit misleading. It seems to be more about the act of finding oneself–Friedman does put a lot of emphasis on the fact that she lived her life up to this point doing everything she was “supposed to,” but it over-simplifies what I believe she’s trying to get at. It’s not about being good or being rebellious, it’s accepting the changes to your path and letting them take you on an adventure.

Overall it was a thoughtful, enjoyable piece of writing that will especially ring true for women traveling on their own and backpackers determined to rough it in parts unknown.