The Same River Twice
A Memoir of Dirtbag Backpackers, Bomb Shelters, and Bad Travel
Acclaimed travel writer Pam Mandel's thrilling account of a life-defining journey from the California suburbs to Israel to the Himalayan peaks and back.
Given the choice, Pam Mandel would say no and stay home. It was getting her nowhere, so she decided to say yes. Yes to hard work and hitch-hiking, to mean boyfriends and dirty travel, to unfolding the map and walking to its edges. Yes to unknown countries, night shifts, language lessons, bad decisions, to anything to make her feel real, visible, alive.
A product of beige California suburbs, Mandel was overlooked and unexceptional. When her father ships her off on a youth group tour of Israel, he inadvertently catapults his seventeen-year-old daughter into a world of angry European backpackers, seize-the-day Israelis, and the fall out of cold war-era politics. Border violence hadn't been on the birthright tour agenda. But then neither had domestic violence, going broke, getting wasted, getting sick, or getting lost.
With no guidance and no particular plan, utterly unprepared for what lies ahead, Mandel says yes to everything and everyone, embarking on an adventure across three continents and thousands of miles, from a cold water London flat to rural Pakistan, from the Nile River Delta to the snowy peaks of Ladakh and finally, back home to California, determined to shape a life that is truly hers.
An extraordinary memoir of going away and growing up, The Same River Twice follows Mandel's tangled journey and shows how travel teaches and changes us, even while it helps us become exactly who we have been all along.
Mandel, a travel writer and Nerd's Eye View blogger, recalls her tumultuous youth abroad in this edgy, unfiltered travel narrative. In high school, unmoored by her parents' divorce, Mandel shuffled between living with friends and family, failed classes, and snorted cocaine. Upon graduation, her "future a foggy wasteland," her parents sent her to a kibbutz in Israel. There, she found a sense of place and friendship among the travelers and locals, and fell in love with a young Israeli soldier. When they broke up, Mandel "felt displaced" again, and began a relationship with Alastair, an unemployed Brit in his 20s who was kicking around Israel. Alastair became abusive, and they traveled across Europe, then back to Israel, where Mandel had a miscarriage. She continued to travel with Alastair, including to Egypt and India, and on brief solo side-trips she felt "lighter" and "fearless," and finally determined to leave him and return to California and college. Mandel's introspective approach ("I was afraid... that I deserved everything I received") is leavened with wit about the role of "lost girls and boys." ("Wendy ends up getting the shitty end of things... sewing Peter Pan's shadow.") Rather than a pat conclusion, Mandel comes away with a mix of regret and "sheer wonder" about the memories and life experience her travels gave her. Messy but provocative, Mandel's chaotic coming-of-age story is emotionally hard to read, but also hard to put down.
The Same River Twice
An absolutely stunning, intimate look into ourselves, and how we learn to assess the world.
An amazing travelogue/ adventure. You can smell the curry. You can taste the pure, virgin air of the Himalayas.
This is art.