To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek through the Heart of Africa

Book Synopsis

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To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek through the Heart of Africa by Nina Sovich tells the story of a young woman who struggles with combining her passion for travel to exotic countries and her settled down life in Paris with her French husband. Nina, who has traveled to exotic places all her life, studied abroad in Cairo and lived in Palestine, meets her husband and decides to follow him to Paris, settle down and even starts playing with the idea of starting a family. Soon, the frustrations of an unsatisfying 9-5 job and the boring repeats of a non-nomadic lifestyle get to her and brings her to the brink of depression.

To save their marriage and make his wife happy, Nina’s husband encourages her to travel again and pursue her dreams, so she takes off on an overland journey through Western Africa, down the Atlantic Coast and then eastward to Timbuktu. Along the way, Nina meets quite an assortment of different characters, like a couple of older travelers from France, who travel down the West Coast with their RVs, just like they have done the previous years, yet living in a their own bubble, separate from the culture and people of the countries they travel through. She also spends time in a small village in Northern Mauritania, where she witnesses the uphill battle of a Venezuelan Doctor, who burns out in his efforts to provide medical services to the locals. As she travels through the different countries in Africa, she witnesses the lives and culture of the people around her and analyzes the effect of those experiences on herself and how her perception changes due to those experiences. She is honest and true in her writing, tells it how it is, even if it is ugly or inconvenient. 

Nina also shares her struggle of feeling guilty for not being what society would call a “good wife” to her husband, works through her fear of losing or at least disappointing him by pursuing her own dreams and whether she has to give up part of who she is – a nomadic journalist –  if she wants to make her marriage work and start a family. 

β€œTo the Moon and Timbuktu traverses the wide open expanses of the desert and the interior labyrinths of the travelling id with a lyrical, wonderful and heartfelt generosity of spirit. Nina Sovich is a new kind of travel writer: honest, open and brave. Here are the soaring vistas and the warm funny details that would draw us all to the open road and up-and-down adventures along the way. I loved every page.”—Wendell Steavenson, writer for The New Yorker and author of Stories I Stole

What I loved about the book:

Book Review: To the Moon and Timbuktu Nina SovichTo the Moon and Timbuktu really spoke to me, as I could relate to her feelings of giving up a part of me for my marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband more than anything and I am sure, Nina does too. Yet a part of me still mourns for the freedom of just being responsible for myself, having the freedom to just pack a bag and go and not having to coordinate my life plans with anybody else. I miss the challenges of solo travel. The feeling that I, all by myself, accomplished this or that while on the road by myself. Traveling solo is unique and always something different than traveling with a friend or a partner. Yet, as I was reading and thinking about Nina’s and my situation, I also realized that I gained a traveling partner who brings so much to the experience and makes it different – yet equally fun and exciting. I love traveling with my husband and I am very grateful that we are so compatible and share a love for exploring new countries and cultures.

Nina’s description of her struggle to pretend she is a perfect French housewife is written very honest and shows that a successful marriage is hard work and requires a balance of compromise and at the same time staying true to yourself and not trying to force yourself or your partner to become something you/they are not. High Five to Nina’s husband for realizing that he needed to force her out of their little comfortable nest in Paris and let her go through the struggles and hardship of her travels to experience the freedom of life she needed to be able to breath. Even when Nina and her husband decide to start a family and she is pregnant, she decides to continue her travels and not let the boundaries of what people expect from a wife and mother-to-be restrict her life choices. 

To the Moon and Timbuktu is a wonderful book for all of us travelers who are afraid that settling down, getting married or having kids will stop our wanderlust and force us to a life of boredom. Nina is a great example that it doesn’t have to be like this. We can live life according to our own rules, travel overland in Western Africa at 4 months pregnant and have a functioning marriage by giving each other freedom to pursue our dreams. It is a book that shows us it is ok to follow our hearts and do what feels right, even if it is different from what everybody else is doing. It shows us, that we don’t have to give ourselves up, even if we are a wife or a mother, but that we can be even better wives and mothers if we stay true to who we are. 

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