After leaving an abusive marriage with her two young children, Lucetta Zaytoun opened a bakery in North Carolina. She then met and married her second husband, a widower with four children, gave up her bakery, and became a stay-at-home wife and mother, happy to help raise six children and adopting a boy from Africa. In 2010, after her second husband left her for another woman, the children grown and scattered across the country, inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, she put everything she owned in storage, sold her car, shut down her phone, and traveled for a year in an attempt to find herself.
She spent the first three months in Costa Rica, learning Spanish and becoming certified to teach English as a second language. After a brief visit home, she spent another three months in Tanzania, Africa, volunteering with a women’s empowerment center. She spent the rest of the year traveling through Africa and Asia before flying to Hawaii to meet her daughter.
Along the way, she describes such experiences as living with a host family in Costa Rica, camping in the jungle in Tanzania, kissing a giraffe in Kenya, bungee jumping and mountain climbing in South Africa, and spending time with her son in Thailand. While relating her adventures in Africa, she flashes back to her childhood during the 1970’s when schools were desegregated and reflects on that, compared to Apartheid. During one instance when she’s comforting an African woman with a dead baby, she shares her own experience with losing a child during her first marriage. In the end, she describes getting off a plane in Hawaii, where a customs official welcomed her home.
I was drawn to this book by an interview with the author in the March issue of Poets and Writers. I was lucky to find a recording of her reading this book on Audible. I enjoyed hearing her relate her adventures. She made me laugh one minute and angry the next.
However, I couldn’t help wondering how long this would go on. What if she put off deciding what to do with the rest of her life indefinitely? Would she travel the world forever in search of herself? It was a relief when she landed in Hawaii.
I would like to have known more. According to her website, Lucetta Zaytoun is a certified life coach, but how did she get to that point after landing in Hawaii? Did she immediately return home or travel some more? An epilog would have answered many questions. Otherwise, this is a great book for anyone in the mood for some armchair traveling and perhaps a little soul searching.