Norm’s Age of Discovery
I’ve just finished reading an advanced copy of “Pushups in the Prayer Room”, Norm Shriever’s account of his year long global backpacking adventures and now I don’t know where to start this review. The book has a lot of interesting details and informative histories of the many places he visited, but it’s not that kind of travel book. I guess it is Norm’s delivery that really hooked me in. The book reads like he is speaking directly to the reader, something that is not as easy to do with the written word as it might seem. But when it is done correctly, is conveys a personal sense of familiarity and camaraderie and this book oozes a sense of kinship.
In 1999, Norm and his buddy Shane literally dropped everything, bought open-ended airline tickets and took off with little or no agenda and only a little more clothing and money; they were in their late twenties and ready to drink, womanize and generally party globally. The airline tickets were good for a full year, so part of the goal was to see as many places as they could and put on as many miles as possible. In total, they logged more than seventy-thousand miles (the equivalent of nearly three times around the equator), visiting more than twenty countries in six of the seven continents, excluding only Antarctica, so they definitely got their money’s worth.
The story Norm recounts gives the sense that he isn’t holding much back, that we are given privy to all the sordid details. Part of the success is Norm’s use of his own slang and colloquialisms and his own humor which I confess had me laughing out loud while I was reading it. I also like the fact that they used basketball as an ice-breaker. Being an old hoopster, I can relate to that. I also liked the fact that they continually trekked down the path less taken in an attempt to meet the real inhabitants of the countries they were visiting. Along the way, something happened: partying became far less important and absorbing the corresponding cultures took precedence. Another thing happened as they viewed abject poverty throughout the world: they came to recognize just how lucky they are, and this is another revelation I can identify with.
Norm recounts his journey some eleven years after it took place; so obviously, it is being told by someone older than the twenty-something kid on a life-excursion. It is definitely touching, human and bust-a-gut funny at times. But the real story here is about that young travelling adult maturing and this makes the book special and well worth the read.
It is also notable that the first country Shane and Norm visit is Costa Rica and that now, more than a decade later, the author has decided to call this country home and in fact, it is here that he wrote this account, after scouring the seventeen-plus notebooks he filled throughout his sojourn, now the testament to a young man becoming an adult. Check his website at: www.normshriever.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org