Title: Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler
Author: Eduardo Ríos
Publisher: Zibarna Books
Genre: Travel Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
First Publication: 2022
Book Summary – Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler by Eduardo Ríos
Fresh out of college, 26-year-old Santiago has always longed to see the world, but his anxiety gets in the way. How can he possibly travel abroad if he feels sometimes heart-pounding pressure by simply riding a bus? But one day, after years of saving, Santiago courageously buys a ticket around the world. His parents think he’s crazy, but he takes a leap of faith and sets out alone. However, the world he had imagined was far from reality.
Meanwhile, Santiago finds out his best friend Laura, who could not join him on the trip, battles a recently diagnosed autoimmune disease. Will he regret his decision to leave her behind? Will their friendship survive or blossom into something more? On his journeys from New York to Lisbon, Paris to Sarajevo, and Istanbul to Bali, Santiago must overcome his shyness and open up his heart despite facing challenges, such as scams, and confronting complex issues like human trafficking. Join Santiago on a journey of self-discovery and adventure like no other.
Book Review – Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler by Eduardo Ríos
At first glance, “Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler” seems to be a breezy work of escapist travel fiction, following the usual tropes of culture shock, adventure, and self-discovery found in backpacker literature. Once you get into it, however, you realise that the novel is about much more. It is a touching and poignant narrative about healing and uncertainty, and about looking back in order to move forward in life. It is about having the courage to accept the qualities, both positive and negative, that contribute to who we are as individuals and not letting the views and judgments of others determine our self-worth.
“Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler” recounts the physical and emotional journey of 26-year-old Santiago from New York to Lisbon, Paris to Sarajevo, and Istanbul to Bali; from doubts, fears, and a shattered spirit to self-insight and courage. For as long as he can remember, Santiago has wanted to explore the world, but his anxiety has always gotten in the way. The decision to tour the globe was a difficult one for him to make since he was uncertain about his ability to handle the pressure of travelling abroad because he feels nervous even when he is only getting on a bus.
When Santiago finally has enough money saved, he takes the plunge and buys an around-the-world ticket. Even though his parents believe he’s completely off his rocker, he decides to go out on his own anyhow. However, the world that he had envisioned was quite different from the one that really existed. During this time, Santiago discovers that his best friend Laura is suffering from an autoimmune condition and will not be able to join him on the tour. This news comes as a disappointment to Santiago. Despite experiencing difficulties and tackling hard issues such as human trafficking, Santiago must overcome his nervousness and open his heart on his journeys to different countries and continents.
The sincerity of Santiago’s voice, as well as the brilliantly observed descriptions of his travel experiences, are nicely complemented by Eduardo’s writing, which has a quality that is both elegant and fluid. The prose is clear and succinct, and not overly embellished. Descriptions, letters and emails, and flashbacks are utilised sparingly in this, and they do not add unnecessary weight or distract from the story in any way. Eduardo’s own travel experiences and writing come to the fore, and his passion for the subject is evident.
While the story is compulsively readable, this is largely a character-driven novel. Plot and exotic locations aside, I felt that the author’s strength really lay in his ability to create realistic characters, and to gradually reveal their depth and motivations. What may appear to have begun as backpacker caricatures become multi-dimensional characters with personality. There’s even a little sly subversion of the backpacker stereotype, as Santiago’s travels progress and his perspective begins to shift.