The theme of travel ties all of Gloria Steinem’s memories together in her new book, My Life on the Road. This is a relevant book for anyone who paves their own path and questions the patriarchal status quo. As a passionate traveler, I’ve found that planning my travels gives me a heightened awareness of how much of my life I can control and what I must leave up to fate. I’ve discovered that I am able to influence nearly every aspect of my life with hard work, courage, and kindness. The world is too vast and our minds too powerful to ever feel trapped or think there is any “normal” or “natural” way for the world to operate, especially a way which allows men to benefit at the expense of women. The world is malleable and we can shape it in a way that honors everyone.
Gloria credits her unstable upbringing in helping her evolve into who she is today, although she didn’t appreciate her unconventional parents until she was grown. I found this recognition beautiful, as well as her book’s dedication to a doctor who performed an at-the-time illegal abortion for her when she was twenty-two years old. He did it on the condition that she would do what she wanted with her life. Anyone who believes people should have the liberty to sculpt their destinies is a feminist. Feminism is political, social and economic equality of the sexes that allows people to do what they want with their lives and not let artificial barriers, perverse egos, and gender roles get in the way.
The chapter, “Why I Don’t Drive,” is my favorite in the book, maybe because I myself am a novice driver. I enjoyed reading the compilation of vignettes about memorable cab rides. Drivers have played such an important role in Gloria’s growth as a person. Those who engage in conversation with her have not only delivered her to a physical destination, but an intellectual one. Gloria’s openness and willingness to listen is why I think this book should by a guide on how to travel.
Over a decade ago, I read the book, Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons and found a role model in the protagonist, Flora Poste, who leaves London for the countryside and inspires some people in her adopted village to venture out into the world. One woman in the novel hardly ever leaves her room and keeps repeating the words, “I saw something nasty in the woodshed,” as if her mind were a school chalkboard in a detention classroom, forever conveying the same message.
I’ve met enough people who have seen their own nastiness in their own proverbial woodshed, and they just love to fixate on the nastiness. The practice of jumpstarting the mind in a different direction and altering the course of our thoughts away from the more familiar, destructive routes is more important than traveling
the world, but often one will lead to the other.
A writer friend of my mother’s interviewed me several months ago for an article on women who travel solo. The article has gotten a lot of traction and I’m proud of the quotes I contributed. As Gloria points out in this book, women are safer traveling than they are staying at home. Domesticating women and keeping them cooped up in the name of “protection” is merely a ploy to assert more male dominance. People who feel trapped in their lives will be fearful and fear fosters ignorance. This book is a call for education through exploration. I love My Life on the Road and I highly recommend it to everyone.