(‘Around the World in 10 Years: The Book of Independence’, review written by Chris Collard and published in the winter issue of Overland Journal Magazine.)
“I first met Pablo Rey and his wife, Anna, at the 2001 Overland Expo in Amado, Arizona. They’d parked their Mitsubishi L300 four-wheel drive van, La Cucaracha, on the outskirts of the camp area, where Anna was crafting decorative necklaces and wristbands from twine. I joined them for tea, and within a few minutes we were lost in conversation. Pablo, an Argentinian, rattled on in his curiously sarcastic way, sharing detailed and colourful accounts of their travels and his philosophies on people, governments, and life on the road. The 5 square meters of space behind La Cucaracha’s windscreen had been their bedroom, kitchen, and living room for the past 10 years. They travelled on the cheap; Anna sold her crafts and Pablo did some freelance writing and had recently published a book. I quickly realized that these two vagabonds were the real deal.
For our inaugural Adventure Reads in 2011, I asked Jeremy Edgar to take a look at Around the World in 10 Years: The Book of Independence, which was only printed in Spanish at the time. Jeremy gave it high marks, and when Pablo released an English version this spring I put it on top of my growing stack of “must read” books.
Pablo’s existence, before he “killed” his former life, was similar to that of many: work Monday through Friday, receive a check at the end of the month, pay the mortgage and car payment, save the trivial reminder, and daydream about what far-off land you will travel to…someday. Decorating the walls of Pablo’s small flat in Barcelona, Spain, were dozens of maps. Travel books and magazines cluttered the table, the sum of which would take him to the ends of the earth without leaving his apartment. “One of these days”, and “in a couple of years”, became his excuses for not pulling the trigger.
Determined to break his chains of servitude, he chased one of his daydreams to Southern Africa. Upon returning, he opened the door to his mortgaged abode and knew that one of these days was now. “What lay inside was the life of a stranger. Staying meant taking the path to security…and that meant planning a nice funeral.” He knew what he had to do; he put a gun to his head and squeezed the trigger.
“…I’ll never forget that Monday when I put the barrel of a gun to my head and fired until I was out of bullets, without stopping to think of what I was doing so I wouldn’t have a chance to change my mind… It was ten minutes after ten in the morning and my last words were, more or less, ‘keep the corpse, I’m leaving.’ My body collapsed and I walked out the door…” Pablo Rey.
As the old Pablo, a subservient droid of societal expectations, fell limp to the floor, a long-repressed Pablo, uninhibited and prepared to embrace the world around him, was released. Fortunately, Anna, his then girlfriend of just a few months, agreed to quit her job and join him.
I’m about two-thirds of the way through The Book of Independence, but I can tell you I was hooked after page one. Pablo’s observations of the human race are exhaustive, his attention to detail and the nuances of his surroundings exceptional. Few writers can immerse my senses of sight and smell as well as this talented wordsmith: to smell warm cow dung on a cool morning in Southern Europe or the pungent aroma of a Cairo street market, or to gaze west through a Mediterranean sunset. The Book of Independence will put you in La Cucaracha’s passenger seat for a Syrian border crossing, negotiations to “purchase” Anna in Jordan, and down a remote corrugated track in a far away desert.
He lays everything on the table with regard to strains on their relationship; travelling in tight quarters through foreign lands under often-difficult situations. Their first major argument escalated into personal insults and counter insults. After 10 rounds of progressively offensive verbal assaults – mosquito brain, donkey’s ass, meter-and-a-half-long hemorrhoid, mange with legs – they broke into hysterical laughter. Arguments became a game, and, of course, the rules state an insult cannot be used twice or you lose: legless centipede, rat lice, #&*@%…Brilliant.
These two nomads are my heroes, and The Book of Independence works its magic like a bellows on the embers of wanderlust, inspiring us to break away from the norm, to slow down and smell the proverbial roses… or cow or elephant dung. It’s not about what you’ll do after you retire, it’s about what you do before you die.
I’ve daydreamed of living a vagabond’s life, maybe driving or sailing around the world. I don’t know if I’m truly cut out for it, but I’ll never know until I commit that “someday” is today. I’m getting on a plane bound for India in a couple of weeks and looking forward to turning the closing pages of The Book of Independence. ISBN 978-1482769951.”