Full disclosure, I barely knew who Gloria Steinem was prior to reading My Life on the Road. I connected her name to feminism and writing, but I had no stories to attach to those words. But the book kept popping up everywhere I looked and when it was recommended by Emma Watson in Our Shared Shelf, I decided it was time. Besides, reading about travel and feminism seemed perfect for kicking off my own current adventure.
I was not disappointed.
As Robin Morgan wrote so wisely, “Hate generalizes, love specifies.” That’s what makes going on the road so important. It definitely specifies.
Gloria Steinem is not only an incredible writer, she is also a great storyteller and has that combination of humor and sharpness that makes me wish she was my best friend so we could hang out for brunch every Sunday. I made so many highlights in this book that if it was a paper edition, it would have been ruined for anyone else to read.
Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts. It’s right up there with life-threatening emergencies and truly mutual sex as a way of being fully alive in the present.
She boils down the things I love about traveling into short stories about and from the people she met. And reflects on the experiences, with a sense of gratitude for being there, right that moment. Traveling for me are both the ups and downs, even more so when traveling alone. The highs are amazing, the lows are gut-wrenching. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It comes with the package and I appreciate every bit of it, no matter the struggle. It feels like Gloria looks at it the same way.
More reliable than anything else on earth, the road will force you to live in the present.
It’s a book about traveling and being open for what serendipity brings you, but feminism is the core. In everything from general reflections on women and traveling, to personal stories where people and places are brought to life in relation to equality (or lack thereof).
Men embody adventure, women embody hearth and home, and that has been pretty much it. Even as a child, I noticed that Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz spent her entire time trying to get back home to Kansas, and Alice in Wonderland dreamed her long adventure, then woke up just in time for tea.
What we didn’t talk about were the male staffers who rated our looks, brushed against us in close quarters, and became hazards to be navigated. Our presence was the problem; their behavior was inevitable. Avoiding them while keeping their egos intact was just part of our job.
I finished this book with a deep admiration for Gloria and the work she has done, hope for the future and an urge to do contribute to something meaningful. I don’t think I could give a higher rating than that.
But we have to behave as if everything we do matters. Because it might.