Freelance writer Bensen gives a book-length treatment to an article she wrote for Salon, “The Craziest OKCupid Date Ever,” detailing her relationship with Texas maverick Jeff and their luggageless 21-day trip through Europe in the spring of 2013. After suffering a quarter-life existential crisis, Bensen decides to dive back into life with gusto. She meets Jeff on a popular dating site, and a month later they purchase tickets to Istanbul. The resulting adventure includes serendipitous couch-surfing hosts, raucous political protests, a dust-up with security at the Parthenon, and the “grueling surrealism” of a 23-hour bus ride. Bensen exhibits a knack for description and history as she recalls touring the Hagia Sophia, the temple of Apollo, and even Bosnia’s “shelled-out skeleton houses with collapsed roofs and Swiss-cheese walls.” Jeff is a bit of a caricature at first, but as their relationship progresses, he evolves from a vessel of energy and New Age platitudes into a sensitive man facing his fears of commitment and vulnerability. If this sounds like a tale of ridiculous millennial whimsey, it is, but Benson is self-aware, frequently acknowledging her privileges; her account of her mental breakdown borders on maudlin, but her willingness to discuss it in detail is admirable. (Jan.)
An absorbing and well-told tale
I hope she travels once more, returning with another well-furnished notebook.”
The New York Times Book Review
"An excellent way to cure wanderlust... Fun, warm, and a little bit dangerous, this true-life rom com is a must read for those that love getting their passport stamped."
Alida Nugent, author of Don't Worry, It Gets Worse
“In an intimate tone that is immediately absorbing, Bensen recounts her relationship with her newly found boyfriend Jeff
. Readers will be hooked by their free-spirited trip, which serves as a gazetteer to their deepening relationship. Bensen details with finesse the couple's personalities, issues, quirks, and expectations of each other.”
"Readers intrigued as much by modern romance as by world travel will appreciate this thrilling travelogue of an erratic relationship and the landscape of ancient and modern Europe."
"Bensen's story of an unexpectedand at times magicalromance that developed from a chance online encounter is charming. Yet it is also insightful for the author's observations about the conflicting desires for freedom and commitment that are the hallmarks of modern romance. An engaging memoir of travel, love, and finding oneself."
In this engaging debut, the author writes of her three-week whirlwind tour through eight countries while traveling with Jeff, a college professor and avowed minimalist she met just a month earlier on an online dating site. Bensen's trek is accomplished with only what fits into her small purse—underwear, wallet, passport, and toothbrush. The author's intelligent and witty writing, sprinkled with apropos quotes from William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, and Paul Harvey, deftly combines information on her life and her nascent recovery from a two-year bout with mental illness with relevant history on the locations she visits. In Turkey, the author muses on teachings from her childhood religion classes while visiting the ruins where Paul the Apostle wrote his letter to the Corinthians. In Greece, a conversation she has with their couchsurfing host on Greece's economy segues into difficulties she and thousands of other millennials experience when college graduation only leads to being in debt and moving back in with parents. VERDICT Women who have considered taking an unconventional path in life's journey will find this book entertaining and thought-provoking. The author explores not only the countries she is in but also the possibilities (and impossibilities) of her relationship with Jeff, and her own feelings on what is important in life.—Lorraine Ravis, Monmouth Schs., ME
A 20-something's debut memoir about a whirlwind romance with an eccentric professor who took her on a three-week luggageless trip in Europe. Austin, Texas-based writer Bensen was just recovering from an emotional breakdown when she met Jeff, a divorced environmental science professor with a "larger than life" personality, on OkCupid.com. Just four weeks into their free-spirited, "definition-free dating," Jeff asked Bensen to join him—without baggage—on a European adventure. To her own surprise, the normally shy and retiring Bensen immediately consented. They started their experiment in unencumbered travel—which involved mostly unplanned wandering by day and then couch surfing at night in the homes of people they connected with online—in Turkey. As they drifted from Istanbul to Izmir and then into Greece, Bensen began thinking more deeply than she had bargained for about the nature of their relationship, which both had initially agreed would remain open. Jeff "was a pendulum undulating back and forth between freedom and desire," while she was still trying to find herself on the spectrum his "swings" defined. When Jeff began a harmless flirtation with a girl on a bus to Sarajevo, Bensen realized that her connection to the free-wheeling professor had grown far stronger than an uncommitted relationship would be able to accommodate. Only after confronting him with "evidence" of his infidelity did she discover that her "Kerouacian" lover was open to the idea that "a partnership could enhance freedom instead of weighing it down." Bensen's story of an unexpected—and unexpectedly meaningful and at times magical—romance that developed from a chance online encounter is charming. Yet it is also insightful for the author's observations about the conflicting desires for freedom and commitment that are the hallmarks of modern romance. An engaging memoir of travel, love, and finding oneself.