The Long and Whining Road by Simeon Courtie nabbed second place in the Shirley You Jest! competition earlier this year. The award honors indie authors who “deliver the funny,” and Courtie’s travel memoir is certainly nothing to whine about. In fact, it was one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read largely because of Courtie’s lively prose. So if you’ve always wanted to globetrot from the comfort of your couch, just grab a copy of this narrative and prepare to be whisked away.
Simeon Courtie, lifelong Beatles fan, found a unique way to leverage his love of music with his family’s dream of traveling the world. But not with “posh flights and swanky hotels,” he opines in the opening chapter. No, the Courtie family would globetrot in style in a…
Volkswagen camper van fondly dubbed “Penny.”
Yes, here begins the distinction between being a traveler and being a tourist. After all, tourists do not crash wedding rehearsals in Piacenza, Italy. Tourists don’t change punctured tires in dark autostrade tunnels. They don’t sleep in Turkish attics, participate in Bollywood films or explore the Dharavi slum. They don’t usually assimilate into the very fabric of the host culture.
That’s just a small peep of what you’ll find in a book that’s as gritty as it is charming.
But the most beautiful part of the story—and what makes this travel memoir so unique—is the fact that the Courtie family “busked The Beatles” in every country they visited in order to raise money for UNICEF. Truly, it was the charitable dimension to their trip that made the read so thrilling because it upped the stakes. It provided purpose and a sense of The Bigger Picture. It connected them with people.
And it made me smile.
I heartily recommend The Long and Whining Road, but I recommend reading it in isolation. There will be so many times you’ll laugh out loud that it might embarrass you in public. Aside from his humorous commentary, Courtie has a real talent for wordsmithing our broken but beautiful world. Thirty-eight thousand miles of adventure brings out the best and the worst in Courtie and his delightful family. But what I admire most about the author is his ability to see his own fundamental flaws and talk openly about them. He doesn’t use his memoir as a stage for pointing out the problems of Every Man, but rather waxes philosophical about his own role in a world where “everything can’t be fixed.”
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Tara Staley is the author of Conditions Are Favorable, biofic about the Wright brothers during their years experimenting with flight at Kitty Hawk. The book will be published April 23 in paperback and ebook formats and has been blurbed by nationally bestselling author Caroline Leavitt. Her debut novel Need to Breathe was selected as a “LitPick of 2012” by Twitter’s popular forum @LitChat, and Underground Book Reviews named it a Top Pick this past January. She lives in NC with her husband and two sons, a cat, and too many cardinals to count.