Monday, March 19, 2007

Tales of a Female Nomad

(I promise this is fashion-related.)

I just read one of the best, most inspiring books that I've read in quite a while - Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman.

Taken from Amazon:

"When Rita Golden Gelman traveled to Mexico during a two-month separation from her husband, she hoped to satisfy an old craving for adventure and, in the process, rejuvenate herself and her marriage. Little did she know it was the beginning of a new life, not just as a divorcée, but as a nomad of the world. Since 1986, Gelman has had no permanent address and no possessions except those she can carry. She travels without a plan, guided by instinct, serendipitous opportunities, and a remarkable ability to connect with people. At first her family and friends accused her of running away, but Gelman knew she had embarked on a journey of self-discovery and a way of life that is inspiring and enviable.

We know Gelman is not your typical middle-aged housewife from LA when, on that first trip to Mexico, she randomly picks a Zapotec village and decides to live there for a month, knowing nothing about the culture or the language. When she arrives, the villagers run away from her, terrified. By the time she leaves, there are hugs and tears. From there she travels to Guatemala and Nicaragua, Israel and the Galapagos Islands. But the heart of the book--and her 15-year journey--is Indonesia, where she lives for eight years. It is Bali that forever changes how she looks at the world, facilitated by her friendship with an aging prince. Tu Aji not only invites her to live with his family but decides that the education of Rita will be his final duty in life. Wherever she goes, Gelman has an uncanny ability to slip into other ways of life and become part of a community. And she is a person for whom doors open widely--her seatmate on the plane to Bali scrawls the prince's name on a piece of paper, she talks her way into a sojourn at Camp Leakey in Borneo where orangutans are studied, and an entire village in a remote part of Irian Jaya prays for the clouds to clear so her plane can land--and they do! Gelman's secret is her passion for people. That being the case, the book is short on descriptions of place, but long on the rarer inside view of the peoples and customs of those places. This in itself is treat enough, but Gelman's animated and intimate story comes with a kicker--it's never too late to fulfill those dreams."

As someone who loves to travel and learn about exotic places and foreign cultures, this book was incredibly interesting. This is not your typical travel book - as Rita learns about and adapts to the local customs she takes the reader right along with her; it's short on glossy scenery descriptions and long on everyday life. Now for the fashion-related part: in each place, once she adopts the local dress (sarongs in Bali, huipil in Guatemala) and learns to cook the local meals at the urging of her hosts, it's a show of acceptance and cross-cultural bonding. Really, how many times have you sized up a stranger based on their outfit? And aren't you more likely to make friends or even talk to people with similar styles? It's really not all that different.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel or just wants a chance to escape into another world or two for a few hours. Now we will return to to your regular fashion programming.

1 comment:

Stacie said...

I just did a search on Rita Golden Gelman at Technorati and found your blog...very cool...and I am happy to see that one of a kind handcrafted jewelry makes the Spring list. I am happy you liked her book, she is a great writer and she inspired my husband and me to go nomadic.
Stacie Florer