To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail
by J. R. Klein
Del Gato

"Drained, weary empty, living in Baltimore, unmotivated and unhappy. My life seemed stalled."

Having completed a doctoral degree, Alex Moreau turns down a postdoctoral fellowship, bids his girlfriend goodbye, and sets out from Baltimore to experience Central America with buddy Stefan Kale, an adventurous photographer. With no real plan, they find a temporary haven in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, where a fellow ex-pat tells them about the Gringo Trail—the only road into the Yucatan and onward to Belize and Guatemala. With Yvette, a feisty, beautiful Australian trekker, Moreau savors the mystique of Mayan temples. Along the storied trail, their entourage avoids the few crowded tourist towns, camps in the desert, soaks and savors on glistening isles, takes a splendid mountain train ride, and is targeted by Guatemalans inflamed with revolution while welcomed by hospitable peasants. Eventually, Moreau will find himself ready to return to the US, full of thoughts of 101 days that can never be forgotten.

An award-winning novelist, author Klein has by now traversed four continents. His 1980s Central American exploits, with fictionalized names, are based on notes scratched in a ragged diary that he carried along and transcribed to paper, then to computer, while the events he recounts “were fresh in my mind.” His vivid mix of real events, bizarre dreams, and magical visions gives his work a special piquancy, paired with amusing attention paid to a cast of crazy companions encountered in noisy bars and creaky buses that fellow world travelers will find familiar (if not by name, certainly by type). Klein avoids drawing any sage conclusions as he leaves the Gringo Trail and goes back home, and this is in itself satisfying, as the end of such journeys, like the beginning, often occurs by mystic inner promptings rather than logic. Armchair travelers will enjoy Klein’s memoir equally with readers who have traversed similar pathways.

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