No Baggage by Clara Bensen

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(photo courtesy of Goodreads)

So this book was kind of a random choice for me. I was looking for something new to listen to on audiobook (I have a long-ish commute to work, and I usually alternate between podcasts and audiobooks), and found this one while cataloging at work. It sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

The book is a memoir, recounting the start of Bensen’s relationship with a quirky, minimalist professor named Jeff Wilson. Having just met and started dating, Bensen agrees to go on a trip across Europe with Jeff. But the catch is that they can’t bring any luggage and they can’t make any reservations or plans. The whole situation makes for quite an interesting trip, with some ups and downs for them personally as well as for their new relationship.

While this kind of trip isn’t something that I would ever attempt myself, especially with someone that I’ve just met, it made for really interesting listening. Not only because of the exciting travel journey, but because of Bensen’s mental journey as well. In the memoir, Bensen discusses her struggle with mental illness, which she was just starting to get over when she met Jeff. This is part of the reason she decides to accept his invitation, because she feels like the trip will break her out of her comfort zone and help her overcome some of her difficulties.

I really think that this aspect of the story, the fact that she’s still trying to overcome her mental illness, makes it more than just a quirky travel adventure story. And the fact that she’s also trying to mesh with someone who she hasn’t known for very long, who is very different from her, makes for some really interesting conflict. The premise of this story does remind me of some other memoirs like Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, but to me this feels a little bit more realistic and less “inspirational” than others in that life-changing memoir genre. This one, on the other hand, feels a bit more down to earth, and as the reader you’re not completely sure how everything is going to work out in the end. This is something I usually appreciate in a story, since it can get really boring to read a story that you already know to ending to.

I think one other thing that really made this memoir good was being able to listen to the author read it. A good narrator can make the difference for any audiobook, and the author reading their own book is always really cool. But I feel like it’s almost required for a memoir to be read by the author, since they can put so much more of themselves and their experiences into the reading. It really makes all the difference.

If anyone has read this book, what did you think of it? Also, if you have any other memoirs to recommend, let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Alyss

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