“I wished instead of What do you do? as an icebreaker, people asked, So what makes you the most happy? I would imagine the people who’d figured out life would have the same answer for both” (James 21).
This is an excellent statement to stop and think about. Some may know what makes them happy already while others are still searching. Author Kyle James wanted more in his life and wanted to travel the world with his girlfriend, Ashley. They moved to Colorado after they graduated from college to earn money for their travels, but found themselves slowly falling into the daily routines every human seems to find themselves in. So in 2015, the couple threw caution to the wind, quit their jobs, and spent four months traveling across 15 countries and 38 cities. James recorded their amazing and life-changing experience in his memoir Not Afraid of the Fall.
The story is very well titled for taking that first step to travel is always the hardest. Most people plan on traveling at some point in their lives; however, they are most always stopped by expenses, time conflicts, not being able to get time off work, etc. For James and his girlfriend, they most certainly had their fears of falling, but took the leap anyway. They also came across a few moments of literally not being afraid of falling during their travels, but even when facing these moments, James and Ashley were able to find the courage to not be afraid. One such literal moment happened very early in their travels when the Airbnb they stayed in in Paris had a beautiful rooftop porch with no guardrail and their host said that they were more than welcome to sit on it if they were “not afraid of the fall” (James 13).
James’ writing style is so much fun to read, writing in a way that makes it seem like he is physically sitting in the room with the reader telling them his story. He describes everything he and Ashley did in great detail, taking readers on his day-by-day journey. Readers may think that that would prove to be a boring read, and yet the book reads quickly and keeps the readers’ attention from the first page to the last page. Readers will love James’ witty banter and sense of humor for there are many laugh out loud moments. Readers will also love how real he can be. He admits that he is a creature of habit and that he stepped way out of his comfort zone to travel. There were times when he focused on the all-too-real daily anxieties: Did he do the right thing? Was traveling worth the risk of being jobless and homeless for four months? Would there be a guarantee of finding another job when they returned to the States? Even with these doubts, he focused on how his travels opened his eyes to a whole new life.
While it is always fun to read travel memoirs and learn about different countries through other people’s experiences, what makes James’ story so captivating is reading about his and Ashley’s personal growth and their personal experiences through their travels. He mentions so many things people don’t normally think about, but things people probably should. Like food, for instance. Food is such a big part of daily life, yet people find themselves constantly eating the same kinds of food every day. James and Ashley tried so many new meals and this, in turn, encourages others to get out of their comfort zones and try different foods rather than just going to McDonald’s or Subway every day. Readers should also beware, for reading James’ book will most likely leave them feeling quite hungry. Another thing people don’t normally think about is writing a book. James probably did not expect to write a book about his travels and have it published, and yet Not Afraid of the Fall is now available for reading and a part of the Inkshares’ ever-growing library. This proves to be another great reminder to anyone out there who has been afraid to write to “not be afraid of the fall” and just write their story.
One excellent focus he had was on modern day social media. He mentioned how he and Ashley were tourists at the start of their travels, taking pictures of everything they could find, but as they journeyed on, they began to notice how everyone was taking pictures and selfies, but wondered if they were truly seeing what was in front of them. “As I looked around and noticed every single person taking pictures of the Pantheon (including Ash and me), I wondered what it was like visiting a place like this in the eighties or nineties, before smartphones and high-quality cameras. Why don’t they treat these ancient landmarks like classy museums and forbid pictures and loud noises? Social media has ingrained this addictive need to capture every piece of our lives. Almost to the point that if we don’t capture it, we feel like it didn’t happen” (James 124). While no one in this day and age will put their phones down, it is a good reminder to everyone to take a moment, look away from the screen, and just savor the moment of life that is before them and create a memory within their minds rather than capturing the moment with a camera.
Travel memoirs make for incredibly inspirational reads for these writers, whether they traveled alone or with someone else, do what so many others wish they could do, but normally don’t get to do. James and his girlfriend were able to get out of the daily routine they were not satisfied with and found happiness, adventure, and more meaning to life than they ever imagined. This is a motivational memoir for, whether readers are able to travel across the seas or just to the next town over, James’ story encourages everyone to get out of their comfort zones and try new things. James and Ashley discovered a flower on their travels called the agave flower and it is a beautiful flower that grows out of reach of animals so it won’t be eaten, but once it dies, it will never rebloom. “These plants, somehow through evolution, decided it was worth it to live a shorter yet more magnificent life than a monotonous, longer life. Sure, they only got to bloom one time, but would you prefer to bloom once and live a magnificent life, swaying in the sky, or bloom every year and get eaten by obnoxious rodents or stepped on by toddlers? I would choose YOBO: You Only Bloom Once” (James 104). It really makes one think about what they truly want out of life: Do you just get by or do you do something sensational? What makes you the most happy?