4.6 26
by Kirsten Hubbard

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Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists are hardly the key to self-rediscovery.

So when Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his…  See more details below


Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists are hardly the key to self-rediscovery.

So when Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspoken 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 through Mayan villages and remote Belizean islands, they discover they're both seeking to leave behind the old versions of themselves. The secret to escaping the past, Rowan's found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria realizes she can't run forever. At some point, you have to look back.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Bria Sandoval is a gifted 18-year-old who lives in Los Angeles. She has abandoned her art on the heels of a destructive relationship with egotistical Toby, with whom she competed for a coveted art-school placement and won. As therapy for her broken heart and disillusioned psyche, Bria signs up for a trip to Central America with the Global Vagabonds. When her fellow travelers turn out to be middle-aged, Bria impulsively goes off with two backpacker teens she meets in Guatemala. She is left alone with secretive and troubled Rowan when his sister leaves unexpectedly, and her journey of self-discovery and emotional recovery begins. Neither goody-goody (one goal of her trip is to have an utterly meaningless sexual relationship) nor bad girl, Bria is a strong, principled young woman. A very good, very accessible novel.—Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME
Publishers Weekly
Hubbard’s second novel, following Like Mandarin, is rich with the unexpected joys and tribulations of new experiences. When 18-year-old Bria Sandoval is dumped, her art school plans fall through, and her two best friends renege on their summer travel plans, Bria signs up for a “Global Vagabond” tour in Central America. Upon arriving in Guatemala, she is disappointed by the tame, touristy group, and when a handsome stranger named Rowan and his half-sister, Starling, invite her to travel with them, she jumps at the opportunity. From Guatemala, Rowan and Bria make their way to a Belizean island where they stay in hostels, get on each other’s nerves, and skirt conversations about their pasts: both are angry at themselves and focused on changing themselves. The sincerity of Bria’s narration is balanced by a healthy dose of sarcasm, and her journaling and delicate, skillful pencil drawings contribute to the novel’s strong sense of place. Bria’s charged relationship with Rowan and the vast emotional and physical territory Hubbard covers make for an evocative and romantic read. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary. (Mar.)
VOYA - Alissa Lauzon
Recovering from a devastating breakup and unable to find any artistic inspiration, eighteen-year-old Bria has given up on her dreams of attending art school and finds herself completely lost. Bria is desperate to shake up her life and reinvent herself through adventure, meaningless hookups, and an escape from the routine of her life. The Global Vagabond brochure seems like the perfect answer—until Bria lands in Central America with a group of middle-aged tourists. She longs to be like the free-spirited backpackers she saw at the airport, and when she runs into them again, Rowan and Starling provide her the opportunity to ditch her group and experience the adventure she craves. Bria quickly discovers, however, that her travel companions are also working through issues of their own. Hubbard is clearly drawing on personal experience as she so authentically captures the travel experience. The story, however, is not just a travelogue. It is a story of healing and growth. Hubbard has crafted delightfully complex characters who are fresh and realistic. She gets readers right into Bria's awkward, insecure, uncertain skin. Hubbard's sketches add depth to Bria's character and give a wonderful visual representation of the story. Rowan is full of the self-confidence that comes from being young, knowing you are good looking, and feeling invincible, and readers cannot help but see his charms. The plot is slow at times, due to the introspective and travel-heavy nature of the narrative. The romance between Bria and Rowan is constantly on a slow burn, leaving readers wondering until the end—will they or won't they end up together? Reviewer: Alissa Lauzon
Kirkus Reviews
A tale of self-discovery slowly unfolds in this novel about a talented artist who falls for her travel companion as she backpacks in Central America. Eighteen-year-old Bria defiantly embarks on a post–high-school graduation trip, quickly abandoning the tour group full of squares she's with and uneasily throwing her lot in with globetrotter Starling and her surly, yet intriguing brother, Rowan. Bria and Rowan eventually wind up on their own, both guarding their secrets mightily from the other. Bria is distinctive--embarrassed that she let her dreams of art school be sabotaged by a former boyfriend and self-conscious about appearing to be a naïve traveler, but also often tough and assertive. While these seemingly incongruous qualities make for interesting reading, her internal voice sometimes seems to clash with her dry, almost tartly down-to-earth outward persona, as when she thinks, "Tonight, I am the bohemian beach fairy of my fantasies." Rowan, who is attempting to leave behind a sordid past that includes drug use and smuggling, is similarly complex. If the pacing drags at times, there are also some thrillingly romantic, smart and funny moments. Pencil drawings by the author embellish appealingly. A thoughtful and meandering travel narrative, this will find an audience among readers willing to take the time to get to know characters whose motives they might not always understand. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


Day 1


Travel companions

Overpriced organic fruit & nut bar from airport terminal
Ergonomic travel pillow
Phone with astronomical roaming charges
Sketchbook (knockoff Moleskine)
Assortment of pens and pencils

Left behind

Old version of myself

As soon as I see the blond girl bouncing down the aisle, I know she's heading for the empty seat beside me. It's just my luck. A woman in a floppy hat already fills the window seat. After three minutes of laboring at a sudoku puzzle, she starts to snore--even though our plane's still at the gate of LAX.

The girl tosses herself into the seat with a gusty sigh that practically rattles the double-plated windows. She's wearing a stretched-out sweater and drawstring pants, her dark blond hair in a sloppy pile on top of her head. Her fingers are covered with wooden rings.

I'm wearing quick-dry khaki capris, a crispy Windbreaker, and hiking shoes that make my feet feel like Clydesdale hooves. They're brand-new. Like my too-short haircut and my purple suitcase, along with everything in it.

I'm pretty sure the woman in the window seat is wearing a tent.

"So where you headed?" the girl asks, wedging her skinny knees against the seat in front of her. I shut my sketchbook and slip it between my legs.

"Guatemala," I reply, "same as you."

"Well, obviously. But where in Guatemala, exactly?"

"All over the place."

"Where first?"

I grasp for a name and come up with nothing. I never read the itinerary for my Global Vagabonds group tour. "I don't really travel with a set plan. It's too restricting."

She raises her eyebrows. "Is that right?"

Once I start, I can't stop. "I've found it's the best way to travel. Heading to whatever place intrigues me, you know? If I feel like sunbathing, I go to the beach. If I'm hungry for culture, I hike a Mayan ruin. I'm a photographer, really."

What I am is full of shit. My mom gave me the camera for my birthday last month, with a warning not to tell my dad. Just like the stack of art books my dad slipped me last year, when I was preparing my portfolio for the art school I'm not attending. I think their secret presents make them feel like they're each gleefully undermining the other in their endless uncivil war. At least I get consolation prizes.

"You're a photographer?" The girl's blue eyes widen. "How old are you?"


"You must be really talented."

It's the really that gets me. She doesn't believe me. And why should she? It's not like I look particularly well traveled. Or talented. Whatever that looks like. My Windbreaker makes crunching noises as I shift away. I should have brought a better jacket, something funky and artsy. But even in the days I considered myself an artist, I never had the guts to dress the part.

Plus, the Windbreaker was on my Global Vagabonds Packing List:

1) photocopy of passport

2) under-clothes money belt

3) crispy Windbreaker the color of gutter water

And like always, I followed the rules.

Just when I'm about to implode with embarrassment, the woman in the window seat taps my shoulder. "I couldn't help overhearing," she says. "I'm traveling in a big group. I could never travel like you do. I think you're so brave."

I grin. "Thanks! It's no big deal . . . I just know how to take care of myself."

I think I sound pretty convincing.

It all began with a stupid question:

Are You a Global Vagabond?

The cashier at the sporting goods shop jammed the pamphlet into my bag, like a receipt or a coupon for a discount oil change, something easily discarded. But to me, it seemed like an omen, appearing the exact moment my resolve started to crumble.

Blame my wilting willpower on my best friends, Olivia Luster and Reese Kinjo. They've never agreed on anything--except backing out on our trip.

The trip had been my idea in the first place. We'd chosen Europe, the obvious choice for eighteen-year-old travel virgins fresh out of high school. But after just a couple weeks of emailed images of the Louvre and La Rambla, links to online travel guides and airfare deals, Olivia and Reese dropped by my house. They never hang out together, so instantly, I knew something was up.

"We've decided we can't travel with you this summer," Olivia said. "The timing's just not right--we're sorry."

I sat on my bedroom floor involuntarily, like someone had snipped my marionette strings.

"Look, Bria--we're not trying to be assholes," she continued while Reese's nonconfrontational eyes scanned my ceiling. "We're only thinking of you. You're just not in the right headspace for traveling. Remember what happened on your birthday last week?"

"Yeah, I remember," I said, annoyed. "You almost fell off the balcony flashing half of Tijuana in the hot body contest--"

"I'm talking about the fifty billion kamikazes you threw back before puking in the taxi on our way home. You're lucky we didn't get into worse trouble than that. What if it happened in Czechoslovenia?"

"There's no such place as Czechoslovenia."

Reese, who hadn't gone to Mexico and probably never will, squatted beside me. "We just don't think you're in the right headspace to take a trip, Bria," she said in that amateur philosopher's voice that makes my eyes spiral. "You and Toby have been broken up for, like, six weeks, and you've barely left the house. You didn't even go to prom. You're obviously still healing--running away isn't going to expedite the process."

"You guys don't get it," I protested. "I need this . . ."

They waited, but I couldn't continue.

"We're really sorry, babe," Olivia said. "We'll have an epic summer right here in town, all right? I'll find you a new boy before college--or several. Remember, no strings!"

Reese waited for Olivia to leave, then gave me one of her feeble, girlish hugs. "Maybe we'll travel next summer. After a year of college, we'll have so much more perspective for a trip like this, anyway." A piece of her black hair fell into my open mouth.

As soon as my bedroom door shut, I noticed the plate of raspberry bars on my nightstand. A typical Reese Kinjo gesture: reconciliation by fresh-baked goods. I've known her since second grade, Olivia since eighth. They're like the opposite poles of my personality. Mild-mannered, responsible Reese is who I used to be, while in-your-face Olivia's who I want to be--with a few sharp edges dulled. We've never been a threesome. More like two twosomes, with me in common. I should have realized the three of us traveling together would have been uncomfortable, to say the least. And spending boatloads of money to serve as a pal's crying shoulder is a lot to ask. But why couldn't we have figured that out earlier?

I guess it's good they never learned my real motivation for heading abroad.

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Meet the Author

As a travel writer and young adult author, KIRSTEN HUBBARD has hiked ancient ruins in Cambodia, dived with wild dolphins in Belize, and navigated the Wyoming Badlands in search of transcendent backdrops. She lives with her husband and their dog.

From the Hardcover edition.

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