Book Review: Machu My Picchu, Searching for Sex, Sanity, and a Soul Mate in South America by Iris Bahr
I guess I should mention this upfront and get it off my chest. I’m a little bit prudish. There, I said it and I feel better. Maybe it’s my strict Catholic upbringing or even better, a clinical psychologist could determine it is rooted in something unresolved, but what I can tell you that Iris Bahr is not prudish or even the slightest bit embarrassed discussing the most hilarious and sometimes downright sordid stories from her recent travels to Machu Picchu and South America.
In her latest travel/humor memoir Machu My Picchu, Iris Bahr writes with a level of wit and sarcasm that I have yet to see within the travel writing landscape. Although Iris’s stories may bring even the boldest of readers to turn red with embarrassment, she does in the end redeem herself to be not only a talented writer, but one of extraordinary humor and candor. After all, a good story teller knows that the goal of good writing is to immerse the reader in tales of adventure, comedy and love.
Already a seasoned backpacker, Iris decides to enroll in Brown University but soon discovers that college is not for her. Determined not to waste her hard earned Bat-Mitzvah money, Iris opts to put her school on hold and heads out in search of adventure and love in South America. What really appealed to me about this book was not the outrageous and often scary stories of Iris’s adventures, but more the way she told these tales. A gifted storyteller, Iris is candid especially when telling her accounts of things such as when she hooked up with a handsome man named Raoul. And then there was the time she almost died. Yes –she almost died. I’m telling you, this woman has LIVED.
Throughout Iris’s journey she is not travelling alone, her best friend Talia is right there with her through thick and thin. Talia is pretty much the complete opposite of Iris, which is the perfect contrast to Iris’ crazy and sometimes contemptible personality. During the course of their travels the friendship is put to the test as they pick up and meet an incredible cast of characters. I think that even though Iris is so focused on finding love with that one special guy, the most memorable relationship of the book is the friendship between her and Talia.
Honestly I was skeptical of reading this book, but I quickly realized that maybe isn’t that what travel is all about? It’s about getting outside your comfort zone and trying something new – something bold and daring. I’ve never read a travel memoir quite like this, and I doubt I ever will again. But I learned a lot from Iris and her outlandish travels throughout South America: Sometimes it’s not about sticking to the map or the plan, but about experiencing life and all its pleasures – sometimes amazing and maybe sometimes bizarre.
Editor’s Note: Cailin is leading our first of what we hope will be many monthly book discussions over in The Travel Belles Community. This month we’re reading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. We invite you to join us!