In many ways, I was an independent woman, writes Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Alice Steinbach For years I d made my own choices, paid my own bills, shoveled my own snow But somehow she had become dependent in quite another way I had fallen into the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me But who was she away from the people and things that defined her In this exquisite book, Steinbach searches for the answer to this question in some of the most beautiful and exciting places in the world Paris, where she finds a soul mate Oxford, where she takes a course on the English village and Milan, where she befriends a young woman about to be married Beautifully illustrated with postcards from Steinbach s journeys, this revealing and witty book transports you into a fascinating inner and outer journey, an unforgettable voyage of discovery


10 thoughts on “Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

  1. Candice Candice says:

    I loved this book Reading it was like sitting at a table across from the author with a pot of tea between us Parts of it brought tears to my eyes This woman has a zest for life and an ability to make friends wherever she goes I envy her She falls in love in Paris, meets a bride to be in Milan, and learns ballroom dancing in Oxford What an adventure What a story


  2. Lisa (Harmonybites) Lisa (Harmonybites) says:

    I picked up this book because it was recommended on The Ultimate Reading List The back cover called Steinback a Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist, so I anticipated something special Unfortunately, the author inspired the snarky in me right from the introduction She said she decided to travel because she had dropped into the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people Oh, so this was going to be one of those find myself books, was it I m rather suspicious of that kin I picked up this book because it was recommended on The Ultimate Reading List The back cover called Steinback a Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist, so I anticipated something special Unfortunately, the author inspired the snarky in me right from the introduction She said she decided to travel because she had dropped into the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people Oh, so this was going to be one of those find myself books, was it I m rather suspicious of that kind of quest I don t think we can plan self discovery, and if and when we do it s often in challenging ourselves in some in some way not by being tourists in comfy vacation spots in Paris, London and Milan Travel books are interesting for two reasons Either the traveler and their voice, their writing makes it interesting, or the destination does because it s exotic to the reader or the traveler finds themselves in the midst of exciting, historic times Neither is the case here I found the writing, at best, undistinguished One reviewer noted the overuse of the colon I thought Steinbach overused the question mark use of the rhetorical question abounded I agreed with the reviewer who called Steinbach s metaphors and literary allusions forced And I found the chirpy postcards she sent to herself heading the chapters signed, Love Alice, trite and cringe worthy.Worse, I found no particular insight into the places she went to Except for her time in England, she didn t even know the languages, nor did she stay long enough to bethan a tourist The one place she went to I had personally visited was England But I didn t feel any pull or identification with her experience of London and other places I had visited Maybe it s because she had visited before, but I didn t find reflected here all the little details that stood out and made England feel paradoxically at home and yet strange as an American She might as well been describing my hometown of New York City After putting down this book, I next read Conway s The Road from Coorain, the memoir of a woman who grew up on an Australian sheep farm and would go on to become the first woman president of Smith College At one point she visited London and other parts of Europe with her mother and here, in a memoir not focused on travel per se, in the one chapter about her visit to Europe, I foundkeen observations and insights in each paragraph than I did in the whole of Steinbach s book


  3. Carol Carol says:

    Satisfied That s how I felt after finishing Without Reservations The Travels of An Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach This book has been on my travel book shelf for ages Every time I thought I d read it I d pass it on by Originally I thought I d read it for the travel aspect Now as I get ready to retire it seemed just the right time to read Steinbach s take on the journey of a lifetime an exploration of self discovery Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist considered herself a Satisfied That s how I felt after finishing Without Reservations The Travels of An Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach This book has been on my travel book shelf for ages Every time I thought I d read it I d pass it on by Originally I thought I d read it for the travel aspect Now as I get ready to retire it seemed just the right time to read Steinbach s take on the journey of a lifetime an exploration of self discovery Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist considered herself an independent woman in some ways but not in others I think this describes many women I know, both those working or not She explains that she had gotten in the habit of defining herself by what and who she was to other people and began to wonder who she was removing this from her life She decides to take a sabbatical from work and sets off to Paris, Oxford, Milan among other inviting locales in the world to see if she can discover who Alice is.One thing I absolutely loved is that Steinbach begins each chapter with a postcard sent to Alice from Alice I have always like doing thissend myself a postcard to remember a place I ve been and record feelings it evoked I found myself nodding, smiling, laughing, and applauding Steinbach as I read through her thoughts and adventures on this journey Many, many, sticky book darts graced the pages before I was done There were so many passages that resonated with me I just liked the way Steinbach expressed herself I loved the way she opened herself to what may come, by taking the risk to leave the job and family and by allowing herself to embrace new things and to meet new people, make new friends, if not for a lifetime, for the moment A few quotes that stopped me in my tracks and made me thinklooking into the mirror that others hold up to meWorrying about children is high on the list, too And it makes no difference, as I well knew, whether the children are three or thirty A child is a child, is a child At least in the the eyes of a parentWalking back to Radcliffe Square, I thought of something my mother used to read to me It was a passage from a book by her favorite naturalist, Wendell Berry In it he offers advice to those about to enter the wilderness Always in the big woods when you have familiar ground and step off alone into a new place, he wrote, there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and its is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into These and other passages throughout the book gave me pause to think at my own new journey and how it can be an adventure if I just allow new experiences to wash over me Let fear go not without practical caution of course , be spontaneous, impulsive, open minded and open hearted, see who the me is outside of my job, outside of what has defined me to this date I m excited and know I ll go back to Without Reservations for inspiration


  4. Agreenhouse Agreenhouse says:

    Now that summer is officially over, and I spend most of my waking hours sequestered in a classroom, I seek out travel books so that at least my mind can pretend it is somewhere else Usually, I am attracted to exotic travel tales, so at first I was not that impressed that Alice Steinbach chose to spend her six months abroad in western Europe I could not imagine what exciting adventures she could get into in England, France, and Italy, but as I read on Alice explained that the point of her trip Now that summer is officially over, and I spend most of my waking hours sequestered in a classroom, I seek out travel books so that at least my mind can pretend it is somewhere else Usually, I am attracted to exotic travel tales, so at first I was not that impressed that Alice Steinbach chose to spend her six months abroad in western Europe I could not imagine what exciting adventures she could get into in England, France, and Italy, but as I read on Alice explained that the point of her trip was not to discover a crazy adventure but to rediscover the adventurer she used to be before life and responsibilities took over As a divorced woman with two grown children, Alice decided that she had reached a point where she could go out and find the woman she used to be Traveling along with Alice was like sitting down and taking some good life lessons from a wiser, older woman I saw that in her fifties, she was dealing a lot with looking back at the past, at those who she had lost throughout her life, and reconciling those loved ones with the new people she was meeting in her travels A bittersweet element came out A big lesson that I try to learn is to say yes tothings than you say no to Just the other day, as I was taking a walk around the corner from my parents house, I stopped in front of a large McMansion Its garage was open, and a lady sitting on a lawn chair was barbequing something that smelled delicious In all my years of growing up in Plainview, I had never seen someone bbq in front of their house Practically no life happens out front The food smelled so good, so even though I just had dinner, and I never do things like this, I called out, It smells really good What the lady called back It smells really good, I called back Come, she said waving the spatula Come get something to eat It was with this last sentence that I heard her thick accent and felt things madesense I wondered what country she was from, where they make really good bbq and talk to their neighbors Was I the first neighbor to ever greet her It was possible in Plainview And then I said, No No thank you and I continued walking around the block The no was a reflex action based on too many demands too many times in too many days I hated that reflex action Like Alice, I want to say yes I want to wander around again and hopefully next time join this woman for a bbq I like spending time with women older than me, who seemed to have their life figured out in one way or another I spent some time with my grandma and her friends at an ORT dinner They had nothing to prove THey didn t even do the typical grandma game of one upping the other my grandchild is better than yours Then, when Jenny read her speech on ORT, everyone was proud of her, The biggest question was over who prepared a dinner for their husband and who actually let their husband fend for themselves Of course, Florida real estate, insurance and the cost of hurricanes came up, but even those who made mistakes, didn t spend too much time discussing it They all seemed happy just to have a chance to spend time together with each other


  5. Gayle Gayle says:

    The topics of the book traveling through parts of Europe, and becoming independent as a mature woman were interesting to me, but I was disappointed in the structure and flow of writing in this book The story was told in an uneven fashion, with lingering descriptions of seemingly minor incidents, and quick summations of major travel events The writing often seemed disjointedl ike a list of events, or quick notes on a postcard which is a device she uses to begin each chapter Toward the end o The topics of the book traveling through parts of Europe, and becoming independent as a mature woman were interesting to me, but I was disappointed in the structure and flow of writing in this book The story was told in an uneven fashion, with lingering descriptions of seemingly minor incidents, and quick summations of major travel events The writing often seemed disjointedl ike a list of events, or quick notes on a postcard which is a device she uses to begin each chapter Toward the end of the book, the form breaks down altogether, with asides and out of sequence events that seemed to have escaped her notice earlier, making it seem like she was rushinf for a deadline It s similar in style to Eat, Pray, Love , but not nearly as well written


  6. Caroline Caroline says:

    I think I m too cynical for books like this I think I like the idea of themthan I like the reality The basic premise middle aged divorced mother of two suffering from empty nest syndrome drops out of her life to travel around Europe alone and find herself is so overdone, so clich d, that I almost found myself rolling my eyes on every page.I found it an enjoyable enough read, don t get me wrong it s always entertaining to see familiar places through others eyes, and Steinbach is I think I m too cynical for books like this I think I like the idea of themthan I like the reality The basic premise middle aged divorced mother of two suffering from empty nest syndrome drops out of her life to travel around Europe alone and find herself is so overdone, so clich d, that I almost found myself rolling my eyes on every page.I found it an enjoyable enough read, don t get me wrong it s always entertaining to see familiar places through others eyes, and Steinbach is a lively, engaging writer but I didn t find it inspiring or motivating, powerful or insightful Taking six months out to visit three countries, stay in fine hotels and eat out in restaurants and cafes for every meal is, to me at least, hardly bold or daring, hardly a radical change of life It s basically the extended holiday we d all love to take.Her depictions of Paris, London, Oxford, Venice and Rome may seem exotic to those who have never visited them, but her stereotypical, idealised depictions bear little resemblance to the places I ve visited Every alley is a hidden gem of cobblestones and unique boutiques all the women are chic and elegant, the men handsome and interesting the food is always good, the wine excellent, the art and history inspiring, the company apparently immediately friendly and engaging If only we could all move through life like this I feel churlish writing like this Steinbach clearly found in her travels what she was looking for, and who am I to denigrate someone else s experience But reading this book it all felt a little too good to be true, a little too air brushed and white washed to be credible


  7. Kate Kate says:

    This was kind of like listening to a friend tell about her trip You really want to hear about it, you really do, but then she just keeps going on and on about the little details that don t really matter to anyone but her At one point, it sounded like bragging I would have enjoyedabout the people and less about the little things she did, like shoe shopping She didn t even bring back the relevance of buying the shoes This was a book that I couldn t wait to end.


  8. Wystan Wystan says:

    I LOVED the comments that Alice Steinbach made during her travels So many astute observations that I found myself nodding in agreement with.An excellent book to inspire the soul with As I told the friend that I passed Without Reservations on to, this book retaught me that we are not defined by where we come from, what we do, or the roles we have come to fulfill we simply are who we are And that s just how it should be Dangerous Made me want to sit in a cafe and write in my journal all day I LOVED the comments that Alice Steinbach made during her travels So many astute observations that I found myself nodding in agreement with.An excellent book to inspire the soul with As I told the friend that I passed Without Reservations on to, this book retaught me that we are not defined by where we come from, what we do, or the roles we have come to fulfill we simply are who we are And that s just how it should be Dangerous Made me want to sit in a cafe and write in my journal all day long, and inspired me to go on solo adventures


  9. Tricia Tricia says:

    I really enjoyed this book It was a very easy read she writes simply and the chapters are short If you have ever traveled to Paris or Italy, you ll like her descriptions and how she connected differently to each city area Also, it is not just a travel book, but a book about self discovery at an older age A nice bonus the author offers a great idea for how to keep a diary document your travels she write mails postcards home to herself What a wonderful idea Hope some of you pick this up I really enjoyed this book It was a very easy read she writes simply and the chapters are short If you have ever traveled to Paris or Italy, you ll like her descriptions and how she connected differently to each city area Also, it is not just a travel book, but a book about self discovery at an older age A nice bonus the author offers a great idea for how to keep a diary document your travels she write mails postcards home to herself What a wonderful idea Hope some of you pick this up very worthwhile.Tricia


  10. Rebecca Rebecca says:

    In 1993 Steinbach, then in her fifties, took a sabbatical from her job as a Balti Sun journalist to travel for nine months straight in Paris, England and Italy As a divorcee with two grown sons, she no longer felt shackled to her Maryland home and wanted to see if she could recover aspontaneous and adventurous version of herself and not be defined exclusively by her career.Her innate curiosity and experience as a reporter helped her to quickly form relationships with other English spe In 1993 Steinbach, then in her fifties, took a sabbatical from her job as a Balti Sun journalist to travel for nine months straight in Paris, England and Italy As a divorcee with two grown sons, she no longer felt shackled to her Maryland home and wanted to see if she could recover aspontaneous and adventurous version of herself and not be defined exclusively by her career.Her innate curiosity and experience as a reporter helped her to quickly form relationships with other English speaking tourists, which was an essential for someone traveling alone In Paris she fell in love with Naohiro, and in the months that followed she met up with him occasionally at various European locations From France she continued to London and Oxford, where she completed a course on the history of the English village Then on to Milan, Venice, Rome, Siena and Asolo throughout the trip but especially in Italy, the words of Freya Stark via The Journey s Echo were Steinbach s inspiration.I enjoyed spotting familiar sites I ve visited in Paris, England and Tuscany, but I don t think you need to know these countries or even have a particular interest in them to appreciate the book Whether she s attending a swanky party or nearly getting mugged, Steinbach is an entertaining and unpretentious tour guide Her attitude is impressive, too I had surprised myself this year by jumping in to reshape my life before life stepped in to reshape it for me You might not be willing to give up your normal existence for nine months, but I suspect that this travel memoir might make you consider how you could bedaring in your daily life