Brian Benson’s new memoir about the journeys we take and how they shape the people we become is not to be missed. Going Somewhere begins in South America where, as a young college graduate with a liberal arts degree, Brian decides to spend a few months backpacking. He’s stopped in his tracks by Rachel, an American making her living as a singer. He joins her band. They fall in love. And a few months later, they decide to ditch Guatemala in favor of a different adventure: biking from Wisconsin to western Oregon. He’s a lanky, six-foot-tall athlete; she’s a diminutive beauty with a plus-sized wit. They buy matching bikes, and their love seems to be in full bloom. But what happens on the trail?
Of course, a lot happens. But like other memoirs that explore the intersection of people and place, the “plot” of the narrative is a lot less interesting than Brian’s inner life: how he understands himself and his world and how that understanding shifts as he attempts to do this really cool, really hard thing.
He doesn’t shy away from vulnerability. Readers get insight into all sorts of ungracious, self-questioning thoughts. But rather than weaken the memoir, this openness strengthens it, transforming it from one young man’s story to something simultaneously more personal and more universal.
Writing this book was surely as much hard work as biking the 2,500 miles. As Brian says in the afterword, he biked many of the routes over again in an attempt to get everything just right. But I think you will agree that the work was worth it, especially for us readers. We, too, get to fall in love and go on an enormous adventure. We, too, get to think about our big, complicated world and who we want to be. We, too, are inspired to go somewhere.