Advance reader reviews of The Voluntourist by Ken Budd.

The Voluntourist

A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem

By Ken Budd

The Voluntourist
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  • Published in USA  May 2012,
    464 pages.

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There are currently 17 member reviews
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  • Rebecca R. (Las Vegas, NV)

    A Man's Version of
    As someone who loves adventure travel and enjoys unique, supposedly un-glamorous destinations, I enjoyed reading this book. The first person male narrator's search for fulfillment and a meaningful life will be particularly relevant to anyone reaching the big four-oh birthday (and older) who has also lost a parent. That sudden feeling of being the oldest generation in one's family, the feeling that options might be tightening, etc. are of concern to a huge generation of baby boomers. For those reasons, the book struck me - somewhat- as a male version of "Eat, Pray,Love."
    That said, I did not enjoy this book as much as I did Gilbert's self-searching travelogue. Before I comment further on that, let me first say that the strong points are the humorous anecdotes, the wide variety of countries visited, and the refreshing honesty about political situations as well as about being a volunteer in places where a Westerner is a rarity. I have experienced that same gut wrenching feeling on the last day in remote locations. In fact, this might be a good book for other volunteer-tourists to read. The country chapters make it easy to recommend that someone focus on just a particular country. The aspect of the book that bothered me and made me hesitate about the rating (good v. average) was the narrator's repetitive obsession with not having a child. The return to this regret was like watching a movie over streaming video and having it stop at the same point several times or an old-fashioned experience of a vinyl record with a scratch that causes a word to repeat over and over. Irritating! I found myself thinking, "For Pete's sake. If he is THAT upset then how on earth does his marriage work?" Get divorced and find a partner that wants this one same goal. How could this couple have not discussed this major issue more thoroughly a long time ago? It made me wonder if the harmonious ending to this life issue will be lasting.
  • John W. (Clayton, Missouri)

    Doesn't Live Up to the Hype
    My wife and I are extremely active volunteers in the non-profit sectors focused on helping under resourced segments of the population domestically and globally so after reading the description of the book I couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately the content didn’t live up to the hype.

    Ken Budd's memoir is more than a travel journal of his travels to many different places including Ecuador, Kenya, China, and Palestine. The reader does get a brief look into these places and people, one that is not a typical tourist's view. It is the personal journey view that falls short. The author doesn’t express clearly how his voluntourism experiences changes or redefines him. He spends more time describing other volunteers and his interactions with them than he does the people and projects in a very detached manner.

    On a positive note the book shares the challenges and rewards of voluntourism and it is presented in a useful perspective for anyone considering such a trip. I did find the Bethlehem and Kenya sections very interesting, but not enough for me to recommend the book.
  • Lynn W. (Glenn Dale, MD)

    Working towards a life that matters
    I have to love a book that makes me laugh out loud and also moves me to tears. When you add to the mix kids, lack of kids and giving a great quantity of passion and compassion, you have a book that really can teach us to have a life that matters to ourselves and to others.
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