Thursday, March 30, 2017

'The Yellow Envelope' by Kim Dinan


After Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs to travel around the world, they’re given a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away. The only three rules for the envelope: Don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away.

Through Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, and beyond, Kim and Brian face obstacles, including major challenges to their relationship. As she distributes the gift to people she encounters along the way she learns that money does not have a thing to do with the capacity to give, but that giving—of ourselves—is transformational.

Kim Dinan is a freelance writers and blogger, whose travel blog, So Many Places, receives over 200,000 unique visitors per year and was selected by USA Today as one of the 2014 Best Hiking and Outdoor Travel blogs. Her writing has appeared in OnTrak Magazine and Northwest Travel Magazine, among others, and she was on a speaking tour for Backpacker Magazine.

Kim Dinan tells the story of her own true adventure. She and her husband Brian decided to leave the rat race and set out on a journey around the world. They had to sell everything, and sacrifice their lifestyles in order to do so. It's a pipe dream for many of us, so since these guys were prepared to make such a hardcore decision for real, I was happy to grab the book and live vicariously through their experiences.

The yellow envelope was given to them by their friends Michele and Glenn, who wanted to make a tangible gesture toward the trip. They presented the envelope, full of cash, to be distributed along the way to worthy recipients as Kim and Brian felt led.

Whew, the first part wasn't at all like I expected, and I found myself getting irritated by Kim's impossible-to-please attitude toward Brian. The travelogue took the back-burner to whether or not their marriage could be salvaged. She convinced him to quit a job he liked to jump on board with her idea, then decided that maybe what she really wanted was just to be alone, because being regarded as one half of a whole cramped her style! The theme of that chunk of pages was, 'I want to figure out who I am without being defined by you. Just sit in this corner and give me space until I figure it out.'

At that stage, she gave me the picture of a totally self-focused person. Kim does whatever Kim wants to do, and Brian learns that even when he gives up everything and lets her call all the shots, she's still not happy. Whenever she expressed puzzlement over not having as much fun and joy as she expected, I remembered the old saying, 'Wherever you go, there you are.' I think her spiritual crisis was the type we westerners have. From what I've observed, Easterners just seem to get on with their lives, knowing deep in their hearts that there's no point in buying into all the angst about finding ourselves, since we're all part of something larger anyway.

Yeah, her attitude drove me nuts at that point, and all that kept me reading was the fact that she wrote Brian's point of view with sensitivity and understanding too. It gave me hope that she'd discover a new way of looking at things, which is what did happen. She experienced a revelation about the misguided focus of her attitude which revolutionised her way of seeing things and saved their marriage. The second part, when they set out as best friends on the same page, is far nicer to read.

The descriptions of the places they visited were great, although there wasn't enough of them compared to the emotional angst. I love their initial plan, which was to have no plan. The book introduces snippets of the lifestyles of people who are living lives poles apart from most of us, with several interesting culture shock moments. Even day to day greetings show the different mindsets. While Americans and Aussies may ask, 'What do you do?' people in India naturally ask, 'What's your concept of God?'

When they bump into other first world tourists along the way, Kim and Brian figure out the difference between tourists and true travellers. Tourists never actually leave home in their hearts, and demand their usual comforts wherever they are, whereas travellers are driven by a true desire to enter other worlds to the extent that this is possible. It's what Kim and Brian felt they achieved after the experiences of this book take them through Ecuador, Peru, India, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam and Mexico.

I do like how she says she found what she was looking for, even though it didn't look like she expected it to. That's something that tends to happen even to those of us who don't travel the globe.

Thanks to Net Galley and Sourcebooks for my review copy.

3 stars.

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