Author Carl B. Yong
Dance with the Clouds: Backpacking the World That Was
Thank you so much to author Carl B. Yong with providing me with a copy of his memoir in exchange for this honest review.
Carl B. Yong has certainly had some extensive travel experience. He’s compiled his journeys from one massive around the world venture into this travel memoir.
When he was fresh out of grad school he didn’t know what to do with the next step of his life. More school? Find a career? Like many of us Yong felt lost and unsure at this pivotal moment. He went the travel the world to find yourself route.
Pre 9/11 travel was certainly different than anything I’ve ever gotten to experience. There was a freedom that came with being able to cross borders in ways that would be unheard of today. Yong booked his itinerary and set off to explore many countries that are typically considered “3rd world.”
There is no denying that Yong saw some sights and met some interesting characters. This would be a life changing experience for anyone. Getting to see the Middle East, Asia, Africa, many places most of us don’t even think to travel to.
It’s an interesting perspective, that of an Asian Canadian traveling far off the beaten path. However, Yong seems to have more experience with traveling than with writing.
He hits all the points of his story. Tells us where he went and what he saw. He also adds in little history lessons about the places and even discusses some of the politics going on at the time. Unfortunately, the transitions between these are extremely rough and at times I was completely lost going from story, to interrupting history lesson, back to where the story left off.
Additionally, Yong is not a historian and has a difficult time hiding his own perspective or bias, writing clearly through his personal lens of what was happening in the world at the time. He seems naive throughout the entire journey. On more than one occasion he found himself in what could have been a deadly situation and seems to just shrug it off as something as benign as stumbling on a crack in the sidewalk.
He draws strange conclusions from his observations, especially about Eastern religions. It appears that he did very little to research his destinations beforehand and didn’t learn much about them while he was there either. Spending most of his time meeting other tourists instead of meeting locals clouds the experience through a very Western view point.
He complains about being disappointed by many landmarks that most of us will never be privileged enough to visit. It’s this kind of blase attitude toward being able to experience other cultures that rubs me the wrong way.
He received an absolute gift. The time, money, and fortune to spend nearly an entire year traveling just for himself. No work, no school, no family, just time to live and learn and this memoir did not leave me with the impression that he understands how valuable that is.
At the end of the book he sums up his journey with returning home and coming to terms with his mediocrity. He decides it’s okay to not be THE guy that changes the world and he will no longer try. Um… happy ending? It’s an odd moral to attach to your own story. Don’t strive for greatness kids!
I was hoping to learn about some of these cultures that he experienced first hand but instead I learned about how a Canadian can go to exotic lands, meet the only white people there, and completely miss the view.
2/5 behatted travelers 🤠🤠
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