I love books. In fact, if it weren't for some of the shows on AMC and Southland, I could probably give up my television and just read books (maybe watch a movie or two). And even more than books, I love free books. So when the author of one of my all time favorite personal finance memoirs, Adam Shepard, contacted me to read his new book, One Year Lived, there was no way I was going to say no (and if you haven't read his first book, Scratch Beginnings, I implore you to do so immediately. It was written as a sort of rebuttal to Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Nickel and Dimed, which is fascinating in its own right, but Adam's book is much more optimistic and presents a whole different side to the working class equation).
The premise of One Year Lived is essentially this: Adam takes one year to travel around the world (on a budget, of course), trying to complete items on a list he made in college (side note: I really would like to know what was going on in his mind in college. Because that's where he formed many ideas that he's acted upon. When I was in college, I thought of very little beyond making sure I got to class on time and remembering to wear my sorority letters on assigned days so I didn't get into trouble) and really living. Enjoying all the world has to offer outside of his typical middle class, American life. Making a difference, experiencing different cultures, and creating moments and memories that he'll reflect on at 70, sitting in his recliner, grandchildren at his feet.
Honestly, reading the book made me a little jealous that he had the nerve to do what so many of us dream about doing (well, something I dream of doing). None of his adventures came without sacrifice, of course–money, career opportunities, moments with family and friends–but he made the jump (both figuratively and literally. You'll have to read the book to find out what I'm alluding to). He did it. He saved the money, said goodbye to his regular life and set out on an expedition that most of us plan on paper but postpone until it's too late. It's hard not to admire that kind of audacity, especially when you consider the fact that he did it alone (side note: I could never do something like this alone. I'm too shy and awkward).
But his nerve and ability to chase his dream and complete the list he made in college are not what I liked most about the book. What hooked me is Adam's ability to tell a story. Reading his book was like sitting down and listening to a friend regale tales from his recent vacation (I half expected a slide show). And the stories are not bragging; in fact, it's just the opposite. Adam does a phenomenal job of weaving personal tales of failure and regret into his summation of his time in each country. He's smart, funny, and self-deprecating at times which, for me, makes for good, entertaining reading.
Not only that, his appreciation and admiration of the different people and cultures he experienced shines through in his descriptions of them. Vivid, detailed, and written with almost no judgment, Adam talks about those he encountered in such a way that you feel like you know them, too. And in a year, he met quite a cast of characters so you know that makes for some good reading.
One Year Lived is, without a doubt, a book I recommend, particularly if you're interested in learning how to afford a once in a lifetime trip and enjoying all that it has to offer without going totally broke. If that's something that doesn't interest you, I recommend reading it just for the stories. And I'll make it easy for you to read. Until this Wednesday, 4/24/13, you can download a copy of eBook, for free, in one of 3 formats by clicking the link to the book's website, using the login firstname.lastname@example.org and the password 123456 (seriously. That's not a joke).
Give the book a shot. Even if you don't like it, it was free! But I assure you–you will like it.