I love to travel, which made reading Wherever The Road Leads: A Memoir of Love, Travel, and a Van a joy. The story begins with introductions to Katie and Tom during their courtship in 1970. Both are strong and likable characters. The author’s smooth, flawless writing makes the traveling easy and real for the reader—certainly much easier than the reality of traveling the world for two years in a customized Volkswagen travel van!
Tom is a well-paid marine engineer, traveling around the world every year on cargo ships, spending four months at sea and then four months at home. His ships include rooms for twelve passengers, mostly retired couples who share daily dinners with the captain and his officers. Tom tells Katie during their first year of dating that he wants to see the world while he is young, not when he is old, out of good health and stamina.
Katie is a middle school art teacher with summers off. She and Tom travel cross country in the US in a VW beetle. They realize they are compatible travelers as well as lovers. He invites her to join him on a long tour of Europe and beyond. Tom’s proposal is likely one of the most pragmatic in the history of romance: “It’s too bad we can’t be married. It would make crossing borders so much easier.”
They marry in her parent’s backyard garden on August 14, 1971 and leave on the first leg of their two-year honeymoon on September 9, 1971. Tom customizes a green Volkswagen van for their trip; they call it Turtle. (His mechanical abilities keep them going as the Turtle gives them multiple mechanical problems during their journey.)
Love of adventure and each other threads effortlessly throughout the memoir. Katie’s passion for cooking new dishes and her desire to wear native clothing in each culture they visit—plus her homemaking skills and both their frugal natures—make their money last much longer than it would for most travelers.
Wherever The Road Leads is the most interesting travel memoir I’ve ever read. Oh, the places they see and the people they meet! Research from journals and letters sent home plus meticulous recall for details takes us to each and every place they went, without any of the hassles.