I don’t like travel essays and memoirs, which would probably surprise a lot of people since I travel so much. But as a travel writer, I’ve seen so many places and had so many incredible experiences that I’m a bit jaded. I have the mindset that there is nothing to be gained by reading another traveler’s tales.                                             

So color me surprised when I was asked to review Without a Spare by Bonnie Kassel and found myself unable to put it down. I liked it for several reasons. First and foremost, she wrote a lot about Africa, which is my favorite destination.             

 Also, I admired her candor. She shared intimate details and events, which helps the reader connect with the writer. Some of what she shares serves as a cautionary tale for female travelers of all ages.                                                                

Furthermore, her choice of destinations will inspire those who might not have dared to venture that far off the beaten path to places such as Bonlez, Ethiopia, Bodrum, and Tunisia.                                                                                 

I could relate to her “gutsy but stupid” approach on many occasions having done so much of this myself—like most adventurous travelers. For instance, there was the time she and her traveling companion, Barbara, drove unaccompanied across the Sahara desert in a Volkswagon bug—without a spare tire (hence the title of the book). Did I mention that while she had a map, she didn’t even have a compass?

Or the time she and two companions climbed the Himalayas without sherpas (guides) or porters? Worse still, she made part of the climb on her own (because she was slowing the two experienced hikers down) and got lost in the dark on the side of a mountain until she finally stumbled upon camp. Didn’t they teach you about the buddy system in school, Bonnie?                                                        

Anyone who’s spent any time in any jungle in the world will appreciate her chapter detailing her experience while journeying deep into the jungle in search of the Lacandon Indian tribe. Her stories serve as a good reminder that travel can be full of surprises, enlightening and liberating, and magical, but only if you’re flexible,  open-minded, and possess a good sense of humor.                                              

without a spare coverOne tip she shares that sums up the spirit of Without a Spare is “If someone tells you there’s nothing there, madam, that’s the first place you should head.”                 


Whether you’re a novice or veteran traveler, you will enjoy reading about these places, people, and the author’s experiences.