Ken Budd asks the tough questions. Does my life have meaning? Will anyone remember me when I'm gone? Does not having children equate to an empty existence? After the sudden death of his father, Budd realizes that his own longing to have children will go unsatisfied. He wants very deeply to have a child, but his wife, just as deeply, does not. So he sets out on a quest to find ways to inject meaning into his daily actions, which he documents in The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem (William Morrow, 2012). He goes to post-Katrina New Orleans, Ecuador, China, the West Bank, and Kenya and what he finds is meaning found in slowing down and being grateful for the small moments that he shares with those that he loves. His life doesn't have to follow some pre-formed map and he allows himself to accept and then release the fact that "father" is not a title he will have.
Budd's observations are detailed and he spends much time transporting us to both the geographical areas that he visits as well as allowing us a peak into his inner thoughts. He wrestles with big, complicated topics, including the larger issues around his volunteer assignments (climate change, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and HIV in Africa). He also turns that critical lens inward to question the impact and the possible negative side effects of the volunteer tourism of which he is partaking. What he gives us is an honest, uncensored view into one man's journey to not only accepting the hand that life has dealt him, but embracing it.
The Voluntourist is finishing up its blog tour; see what other bloggers have said about it or check out the author's website and Facebook pages.
My review copy was provided courtesy of William Morrow.