Books · REVIEWS

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Wanderlove“Travel is a matter of perspective.”

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Personal Thoughts:

When I first read Wanderlove a year ago, I just fell in love with it. It goes to my list of favorite reads last year, and just like my other favorite reads I found it hard to review. It’s like I felt that I can’t do justice for the book. But yesterday, I decided to do a reread since all the five books I’ve been reading lately were all failed. They can’t capture my attentions long enough to finish their stories. So I know the only remedy is picking up one of my favorite reads. And since summer is almost here, and my feet were itchy for some travel, I decided to go with Wanderlove while waiting for my real trip to come.

Everyone close to me knows how I love to travel, if given a chance to travel around different places/countries, I think I’ll leave anything in a heart beat and just fly away and visit those places, no questions ask. Every year I look forward visiting new places, may it be in different country or just few hours flight in our own. I’m not claiming that I am one of the most traveled person around, but I travel every chance I got.

So being a lover of travel and adventures, any book about cross-country tour is so easy to love. Add those thrilling adventures with Kristen Hubbard descriptive words of places and characters, I am definitely held captive by Wanderlove. It is beautifully written with gorgeous drawings and insightful travelling philosophies. 

“Wanderlust is like itchy feet. It’s when you can’t settle down. But Wanderlove is much deeper than that . . . it’s a compulsion. It’s the difference between lust and love.”

The story centered around the adventure of Bria Sandoval, an aspiring artist who went for a tour across Central America. After a tough road of Bria’s relationship’s with Toby, she signed-up for a group tour with Global Vagabonds, expecting teens ready for fun and adventure, but instead she gets a carefully planned tour with middle-aged tourist as her companions. Definitely not the vacation she planned, so when she got the opportunity to leave her guided tour, she took her chance with the group of backpackers. These backpackers are led by Rowan and his humanitarian sister Starling. They travel from one place to another with just clothes and bags on their backs – real backpackers who are independent traveller that don’t worry much about travelling essentials. As she comes to know Rowan and Starling, she also learned more about herself and the person she can become. Joining these group made Bria experience her trip of a lifetime.

I really love this book. I can read it over and over again. It’s so easy to see myself in the story. Some of Bria’s adventures are like snippets of my own travel adventures. It’s like I’m reliving some of my own travel escapades while reading. Like Bria, I felt the urgency to travel when I feel like running to something. Though I mostly travel now not to escape but to explore and reward myself. It so easy to be someone else when you are far away from home. So easy to detached yourself from your regular life and just be spontaneous with what other places can offer.

I don’t know much about Kristen Hubbard’s background, but I think she is really a traveler. I even think that she been to those places she set for her characters. Because the way she describe all those places and travel adventures in this book is so vivid, and real. Add those sketches or illustrations she inserted in some pages, I can only see a more alive and moving story.

The enthralling places, cultures, and even the travellers attitudes are all drawn in detail. It is so easy to imagined all the places and person she is describing. It’s like I was there with Bria and Rowan as they explore different places and cultures. The places are all well-chosen, they are distinct, rich and breath-taking. A perfect backdrop for Bria and Rowan’s journey and maybe a perfect itinerary for a soul-searching trip.

The characters are all oozing with individuality. Bria, Rowan and Starling are all compelling, the more you read about them the more you want to know their stories, even those not so good part of their lives. Bria, started as a shy and simple girl. She isn’t as adventurous or daring as the other backpackers but she is definitely a though girl who is willing to try the adventure even if she is scared. She never back down even she is afraid of the things that’s new to her. As her trip rolls, she openly embraced her fear and face the unknown. Her transformation from tourist to traveler is so fun to follow.

Rowan is the adventurous traveler, who constantly move from one place to another. He is daring and smart. His own travel philosophies are insightful and meaningful. But Rowan isn’t perfect, he made serious mistakes in the past, a past that he’s trying to forget by travelling. Soon he learned that his past doesn’t defined him, and let it molded him to become better. As Bria’s companion, Rowan is the best that happen to Bria, because he brings out Bria’s adventurous side. He shows her how to participate, embrace the moment, and that she can do better and can achieve more.

Starling is feisty strong female character. I like how care-free but responsible she is. I also enjoy reading her friendships with Bria. She doesn’t judge Bria even when Bria lied to her, in fact she welcome her like a sister and push her to join their group.

Rowan and Starling are the type of person I would love to meet in real life during one of my own travel adventures. I feel like there are so much to learn from them. They are both insightful, open-minded, adventurous and independent. For a young age like them they seem to experienced the world already. If I can get any of them as a travel companion in one of my trips, no doubt my travel will surely be exciting.

“You got to find your own places. The places you get, girl, the ones that stick in your heart. And if you’re lucky, you find people to share them with.”

If you are a traveler, Wanderlove can make you pack your things and visit new places. If not, it will at least make you appreciate people who are brave and adventurous enough to backpack and explore other countries or unknown places. And with all the insightful philosophies, this book will also inspire you to analyzed again your own map in life. 

Fully equipped with travel adventures, life lessons and artistic illustrations, Wanderlove is an inspiring and captivating novel, a work of art, and a travel journal roll into one. Kristen Hubbard not only nailed the perfect travel novel as she captures all the different sides of backpackers and travelers, but she also weaved a beautiful and heart-warming story. It leave me breathless, hopeful and inspired.

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