Friday, April 22, 2016


Reckless Traveler is a wonderful book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to travel, to all of us armchair travelers, and to everyone who likes to read a great story. Walter Rhein took off one day from the Wisconsin badlands and spent nearly a decade living, traveling and working in Lima, Peru, and traveling throughout the country. A couple of years ago he chose to write of his adventures . . . but in the form of a novel. So what we get here is no dry travelogue, but a real story featuring the people he encountered and worked with, the young students to whom he taught English, the friends who visited him and the many friends he made, such as Kyle, another American teacher with whom he played basketball; Roberto Carcelen, a cross-country skier who became Peru's first winter Olympiad; and Bronze Medalist Martin Koukal, from the Czech Republic. Then there's Luz Marie, his Spanish teacher with a quiet humor and gentle nature; plus such friends as Julia, Annika and Marisol. These are all people anyone would be happy and fortunate enough to know. 
        For all the trials and tribulations he had to endure during his travels and years in Peru, the story Walter tells is very lovely, and I came away feeling good after reading his book, getting a sense of the soul-expanding and mind-enlightening experience he had being an ex-patriot for a while. Oh, there are a few hairy moments where he encountered some unsavory-looking soldiers armed with AK-47s, a rough bout with blisters on his feet, a battle with kidney stones, and the ordeal of coping with the interesting medical and pharmaceutical practices of Peru, as well as the frustrations of acquiring anti-malaria medications, faulty internet cafes, and the BS one has to put up with when dealing with the bureaucracy of another country. Walter made me smile with fond remembrance when he talks about living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and made me sad when an old friend from the United States who spent his leave from the military with him, and later died serving his country. 
Walter Rhein's prose, his style in telling his story is spot on, and he tempts us with his words to visit Lima . . . making at least this reader envy him his courage and daring for just taking off for another country, another continent, another world. He description of Machu Pichu alone is worth the price of admission, and it is pure poetry. 

After finishing Reckless Traveler I came away with a gift Walter gave me: he showed me that people are pretty much the same all over the world. The people of Lima come across as being more than willing to embrace strangers and visitors, welcoming them and making them feel at home. There is a certain magic to this book that has stayed with me nearly two weeks now since finishing it. Walter's grand adventure left me feeling good inside, and except for the fact that hiking up and down mountains is not my thing, he made me fall in love with Peru and its people. PBS should pick this book up, read it, and send Walter back to Lima, to do a travelogue for us staycationers. 

Once again, this is a lovely book that I think everyone will enjoy.