Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

Ryan Murdock, Author
Ryan Murdock. Polyphemus, $10.95 paper (348p) ISBN 978-0-9573702-0-3
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Murdock’s first book, a memorable travel memoir, introduces him as a powerful new voice in creative nonfiction. In 2000, at age 28, the unmarried Canadian, fearful of living a conventional life, sets off alone for Panama, the southernmost country of Central America, planning to work his way north in an uneasy effort to “step off the fringes of my personal map.” From the initial terror and loneliness that grip him in Panama to his personal transformation during a magical, carefree week with new friends on Nicaragua’s Corn Island, the author poignantly captures what it feels like to let go of culturally bred inhibitions and preconceptions. Murdock’s colorful depictions of the characters he meets along the way add charm. Zack Peoples, a friendly, unruffled Chicagoan, becomes Murdock’s likable traveling companion, as does Jake Romano, a socially awkwardly hanger-on. Romance beckons with Ivannia Gonzalez, the beautiful 19-year-old daughter of the Costa Rican family that takes in Murdock and a pair of like-minded Slovenian women. Although the author slips into occasional melodrama, his emotional ruminations on travel, friendship, and living trump the excesses of his prose and provide open-minded readers a new perspective on their own journeys.
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