Sihpromatum Series: Travel Book Review
Sihpromatum Series: Book Synopsis
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The travel book memoir series Sihpromatum by Savannah Grace consists of currently 2 books: I Grew My Boobs in China and Backpacks and Bra Straps.
Sihpromatum Part 1: I Grew My Boobs in China
I Grew my Boobs in China is the first part of this epic family saga, which takes Savanna Grace and her family the Watkins (her brother Ammon, sister Breanna, and mother Maggie) all around the world. 14-year-old Savanna is thrown into a whirlwind of change, when her newly divorced mother decides to give up the family business and use that money to backpack around the world with her children. Unlike her sister and brother, who are extremely excited about the adventure, Savannah is not at all happy to be ripped away from her friends, pulled out of school and having to give up her house and her beloved pets. But after a few months of preparation, she has no choice but to board a plane with her family and fly to their first stop: Hong Kong.
Savannah finds herself in a world of strange customs, even stranger foods, budget hostels and squat toilets. As they make their way from Hong Kong into Southern China, she and her family slowly settle into the routine of traveling, which is always, and inevitably interrupted by the things that can only happen to you when you travel. Their adventures take them from Kunming to hiking (and getting lost) at the Tiger Leaping Gorge. They climb the endless stairs of one of the four holy mountains, Emei Shan, and cruise up the Yangzi River, then head north to Xi’An to see the Terracotta Warriors and on to Beijing, where they explore the Great Wall and center of power of the Middle Kingdom.
After an adventurous train ride, they make their way into Mongolia, where an even bigger adventure awaits them. Savannah and her family hire some local tour guides that take them into the remote deserts of Mongolia, where they have an adventure bigger than they signed up for, involving a wild camel and enough hairy biscuits and stew to last anyone a lifetime. (Sorry, spoilers!)
Take a look at some pictures of Savannah’s adventures in I grew my Boobs in China.
Sihpromatum Part 2: Backpacks and Bra Straps
After surviving their trip through Mongolia, Backpacks and Bra Straps begins with a rather unfriendly welcome in Russia. While things seem more familiar at first, they struggle with the red tape and the brashness of the people. After spending a few refreshing days at Lake Baikal, they rush to enter the Stan countries, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan.
Due to visa issues they also can’t linger very long and make their way back into China, this time to discover the old trading cities of the Silk Road, Kashgar and Ürümqui, learning more about Uyghur people and their markets. As they slowly travel through the outskirts of the Gobi Desert, they head south into the Tibetan Plateau to explore Lhasa and Shigatse.
From there, they take an almost deadly taxi ride over the Friendship Highway and cross into another world and culture: Nepal. In Kathmandu, the family meets up with a friend of Savannah and her sister and together they head out on a trek through the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp.
And here are some pictures of Backpacks and Bra Straps.
What I loved about the Sihpromatum books:
When I first started reading Sihpromatum, I thought: Oh great a YA (Young Adult) travel memoir about a spoiled teenager who bi***es and complains about everything as her family drags her around the world. I did not connect with Savannah in the beginning, because at her age, the travel bug had already bitten me and I never wanted our trips, albeit only 5-6 weeks long, to end. Savannah, on the other hand wanted to travel as much as a cat wants to take a bath.
But I kept on reading. Her descriptive language painted pictures of familiar and unfamiliar landscapes in my mind, making me turn page after page. She sucked me into the story, no she sucked me into the family. The way she describes her family members and the people they encounter on the road is so deep and real that I feel like have met them personally and spent weeks with them. It felt like I was traveling with my family again when I was a teenager, cruising the United States with an RV together with my parents, my brother, sister and my cousin. They quarreled and fought, laughed, played and had fun exploring, just like we had and while our adventures around the US paled in comparison to theirs, it felt like a trip down memory lane. And adventures they had. Unbelievable adventures, which would make any fiction book sound over the top and fake, yet true travelers will know that this is exactly what happens when you are on the road and experience the world. They encountered the most absurd situations. Saw things that none of them, or anyone they know, had ever seen before.
Savannah’s perceptiveness to the unavoidable and emotional ups and downs that she herself, Ammon, Bree and her mom went through during their trip is surprising and so honest for a 14-year-old. It was beautiful to watch Savannah’s transformation through those two books, as she slowly embraces and even falls in love with traveling and discovering new cultures. But even more touching is how she and her family come to terms with the fact that their family had changed forever. Their Dad had left them and things would never be the same again. Traveling allowed them to see that they could still have fun and create meaningful memories as a family. The Watkins family already seemed like a tightly knit family before the trip but they bonded even more as they mourned the end of their family as they knew it. Yet as they experience this adventure together, they healed and embraced the new future. Savannah is brutally honest about herself and her family members. She doesn’t try to paint a picture of how she wished it had been, a mistake we all tend to make as we romanticize our memories.
I truly love this Sihpromatum series and highly recommend to add it to your reading list, if you love travel (and maybe even if you don’t, who knows, maybe you’ll be transformed just like Savannah was).
And Savannah, if you are reading this, hurry up with book 3 please! I can’t wait to read about your family’s adventures in India 🙂 I miss you guys already!