Sihpromatum: A blessing that initially appears to be a curse.
Vancouver, Canada: Fourteen year old Savannah thought it was the end of the world when her newly divorced mother (Maggie 45 yrs.) decided that she would pull her two daughters (Breanna 17 yrs.) out of school and travel for a year. Accompanying them would be already seasoned traveller - older brother Ammon, 25 yrs.
"We were going to pack up everything, we were going to travel around the world, and we were going to live out of backpacks - for a whole year!"
May 05/05. The Watkins load up their backpacks and head to Hong Kong, China and on to Mongolia. (That's just the first three months covered in this first book.)
Sihpromatum is told from 14 year old Savannah Grace's viewpoint. The first chapters deal with typical teenage angst - leaving at a time when cliques, boys, parties and mall shopping take priority in an adolescent's life. And I had to stop and remind myself of that when I read of her reluctance to go on this adventure. I was reading with older eyes and could only see this as an amazing opportunity and adventure.
There is a chapter in the beginning written from Maggie's view, which led me to think we might hear from the rest of the family throughout the book, but that was not the case. Although you can read entries written by all the family members on their blog - Escape the Good Life.
What we do get is a realistic recounting from a young pair of eyes, seeing the world - literally
- for the first time. New food, uncomfortable toileting situations, cultural shock, travel conditions that aren't cushy and more. But slowly but surely, cracks start appearing in her self absorption...."In my half-asleep state, something within me awakened, and I felt the most calming form of peace imaginable. For just an instant, I let go and peered curiously though that doorway of exciting possibilities, but it was one I was not yet ready to step through."
But she does step through and starts embracing the potential and opportunities that this adventure offers. Descriptions of the sights seen are intriguing, but it is the experiences with the people they met that proved to be the most interesting for me. Family dynamics and interactions also play a large part in this travel/coming of age memoir.
By the time the family hits Mongolia (and the Gobi Desert!) Savannah ..."finally pushed through that barrier of stubbornness I'd always carried to see a new reality, one where I was unbelievably blessed by all the wonderful, positive things in my life. I knew that despite my age, my inexperience, and the minimal impact I had made on the world thus far, I would no longer be able to resist or ignore this new comprehension of my place in it." And the title and cover blurb "How an unwanted journey forced me to see the world with open eyes" fall into place.
You can view a fantastic slide show here of this leg of their journey. It really brings home what an absolutely amazing odyssey this family undertook, both as individuals and as a unit. Not just physically, but emotionally as well.
I'm in awe - and of Maggie especially. Read an excerpt of Sihpromatum - I Grew My Boobs in China.
Last we see them, they're on a train headed to Russia. This is just book one - the family's one year adventure stretched to four years. At the writing of this review, Savannah has visited 99 countries on 5 continents....
You can keep up with Savannah on Twitter.