Author – Dan Grec
Published – 2018
When Dan set out to drive his Jeep from the Northern tip of Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on the Southern tip of South America, he had no idea how much the adventure would change his life. Over the course of two years, Dan’s expedition spanned forty thousand miles through sixteen countries. Now he will never be the same.
After years of saving, dreaming and planning, Dan wanted to find out if an ordinary guy can achieve the extraordinary. With no sponsorship, a modest savings account and a willingness to learn Spanish, Dan threw himself in. Going solo, with no GPS and sleeping in a ground tent, Dan wanted to experience everything the Americas have to offer. From poking lava with a stick and hiking among world-famous mountains to corrupt military and camping with Ecuadorian locals – every day provided something new.
With his eyes and ears open to the world around him, Dan met many interesting and thought-provoking characters. With their guidance and prodding, and by using their unique perspective, Dan was able to learn many valuable life lessons. Running to the beat of a different drum, Latin America was the perfect classroom for Dan to view our modern work-a-day world through an entirely new lens.
My overall rating – 3/5 (If someone asked me about this book I would tell them to give it a chance to see if they like it)
This book grew on me like a slow creeping moss. At first Grec’s overly sunny disposition annoyed me. How can someone be so damn cheerful all the time? It has an inauthentic feel to it for me. Then again maybe that’s really how he is and I would get it if I met him. He drops this later on in the book when things start to get tougher or annoy him.
The middle dragged. He was so focused on his border crossing ordeals, I feel like he forgot to tell us what he had been doing while he was actually in all these wonderful countries. For example, his entire time in Belize, not including the border crossing, is literally this;
Right at sunset we’re free to drive into Belize, excited to explore a new country.
After a fantastic couple of weeks in Belize, Kate and I move West to the major border just outside San Ignacio. (71)
No we aren’t missing a chunk of text between those two paragraphs. That’s really all he has to say about Belize.
The border crossing section also lent itself to some problematic representations of South American people. He talks about corruption, bribery and scams constantly. It reads as a travel guide warning about all the possible scams and tips on how to avoid them. Other than these corrupt border crossing agents and scammers who populate the borders, we don’t see many South American locals at all, save for one Ecuadorian family he spends a bit of time with. Mostly we see vague groups of people in pubs or on tours. Overall the negative representations vastly outnumber any positive ones we see.
The last third of the book is when it picked up for me. He stopped talking so much about crossing this border and that. He focused more on his adventures. He told us about camping in Ecuador, hiking in Peru, and driving across the Salt Flats in Bolivia. These are the stories I want to read. The chapter titled “Modern Day Slavery” that takes place in Potosi, Bolivia is perhaps the most profound in the book. This is the section that makes the entire book worth having read. While touring a mine Grec has this sobering realization;
The reason you and I can buy an iPhone or TV so cheaply is because these men are literally working themselves to death in this mine. They earn one hundred times less than the accepted global price for the silver while doing so. In The Developed World we don’t have slaves in our houses, but we absolutely still have slaves working for us – and they are working to an early grave. You and I have simply moved our slaves out of sight and mind. (197)
If you were only to read one chapter of this book, however, I would recommend “On Debt” which spans pages 223-227. This chapter is an exceptionally enlightening exploration of the old horse and carrot concept. Grec describes to us how a Russian man he met in Argentina proceeds to flip this story on it’s head and gives us a new way of thinking about that silly horse working for that carrot.
Grec’s writing style could be described as clinical at times. This isn’t surprising, since his other books are nonfiction guides such as Work Less to Live your Dreams: A Practical Guide to Saving Money and Living your Dreams and Overland Travel Essentials: West Africa: Myths, Misconceptions and Misnomers. The Road Chose Me is not a flowery, feel like you’re there, adventure story. It’s an account of what Grec did during his drive through North and South America. I like the inclusion of a few photos, though I wish they were printed in color inserts rather than black and white. Despite the sometimes problematic representations of South American locals, I think this book has some redeeming qualities that could make it a worthwhile read for fans of this genre.
This is a pretty cool website that the author hosts. It is basically his travel blog, chronicling his adventures as they happen. He is currently posting about his travels in Africa, which I suspect will be Volume 2 of The Road Chose Me series. Looking back at his posts about South America I’m finding that the blog might actually be more entertaining than the book. You can see many more details about the stops he made than he shares in the books. For example, I can see that he was in Belize for about two weeks and made a couple of stops, including the Belize Zoo, which he posts some beautiful pictures of. The blog also has tons of color photos. I highly recommend checking it out.