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Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime

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At age 34, newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: Her mother’s. As a child, Maggie Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. “You are braver than you thi At age 34, newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: Her mother’s. As a child, Maggie Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. “You are braver than you think,” her mother always insisted. That statement would guide her as, over the course of one year, Downs backpacked through seventeen countries―visiting all the places her mother, struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, could not visit herself―encountering some of the world’s most striking locales while confronting the slow loss of her mother. Interweaving travelogue with family memories, Braver Than You Think takes the reader hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, white-water rafting on the Nile, volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia, praying at an ashram in India, and fleeing the Arab Spring in Egypt. By embarking on an international journey, Downs learned to make every moment count―traveling around the globe and home again, losing a parent while discovering the world.


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At age 34, newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: Her mother’s. As a child, Maggie Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. “You are braver than you thi At age 34, newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: Her mother’s. As a child, Maggie Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. “You are braver than you think,” her mother always insisted. That statement would guide her as, over the course of one year, Downs backpacked through seventeen countries―visiting all the places her mother, struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, could not visit herself―encountering some of the world’s most striking locales while confronting the slow loss of her mother. Interweaving travelogue with family memories, Braver Than You Think takes the reader hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, white-water rafting on the Nile, volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia, praying at an ashram in India, and fleeing the Arab Spring in Egypt. By embarking on an international journey, Downs learned to make every moment count―traveling around the globe and home again, losing a parent while discovering the world.

30 review for Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jena Henry

    I looked forward to reading this book. This is the author’s memoir of the trips she took, trips that she and her mother had dreamed of experiencing. Before I started the book I imagined, “Oh how splendid. I will get to be an arm-chair traveler. I hope we go to Paris, Florence, Sydney, maybe even Moscow or Budapest. Little did I know…” Turns out that Ms. Down’s adventures were amazing. She went to places I would never have dream of going. She began in South America with a hike (not a bus ride) to I looked forward to reading this book. This is the author’s memoir of the trips she took, trips that she and her mother had dreamed of experiencing. Before I started the book I imagined, “Oh how splendid. I will get to be an arm-chair traveler. I hope we go to Paris, Florence, Sydney, maybe even Moscow or Budapest. Little did I know…” Turns out that Ms. Down’s adventures were amazing. She went to places I would never have dream of going. She began in South America with a hike (not a bus ride) to Machu Picchu, and then on to Bolivia and Venezuela. Then, all on her own, she was off to Africa, South Africa, Rwanda and Uganda. Then she followed the Nile to Egypt and Jordan. India beckoned next, which led the author to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam Nam, and Korea including the DMZ where she could see N.Korea. She stayed in hostels, and had incredible experiences with people whoever she went. She also volunteered and worked with elephants, monkeys, as well as tutoring young women. She even hiked to see the Mountain Apes in Rwanda. I’m not a brave traveler like she was, but I would love to see those families of apes. Ms. Downs had a successful career in journalism. Why did she leave her job, and new husband to travel the world? Because of her mother. She and her mother were close, and when she was a young girl, they would both read the National Geographic from cover to cover each month and dream of all the wonderful places. Tragically, her mother suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s for ten years. Ms. Down’s journey was in honor of her mother. She would see and experience what her mother could not. The book is beautifully written and balanced. There is enough detail about each locale- the sights, sounds, colors, tastes…but not too much. There are flashbacks to her mother’s story- just the right amount. We learn and feel the author’s pain, worries, sorrows, joys, but are not overwhelmed. We are inspired, but not lectured to. Ms. Down learns from her adventures. In a beautiful moment, she sees that perhaps her mother had lived a fulfilling life after all. That the journey was for herself and her future. A mesmerizing and emotional story that I highly recommend. Thanks to NetGalley and Counterpoint Books for an advance review copy. This is my honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fiction Addition Angela

    Big five stars for this one. I loved it and wanted to slow down the pages turning but that was nearly impossible because from the moment I started it I was hooked. Maggie Downs is 34 and very newly married - she is a newspaper journalist and begins her "braver than you think" journey by quitting her job, and selling her things to fund her trip just taking 10,000 dollars to last a year with no room for a contingency plan should things go pear shaped. Why did she quit her job and throw herself massi Big five stars for this one. I loved it and wanted to slow down the pages turning but that was nearly impossible because from the moment I started it I was hooked. Maggie Downs is 34 and very newly married - she is a newspaper journalist and begins her "braver than you think" journey by quitting her job, and selling her things to fund her trip just taking 10,000 dollars to last a year with no room for a contingency plan should things go pear shaped. Why did she quit her job and throw herself massively out of her comfort zone? Because of her Mother. They had a special bond and from a young age they would both snuggle on the same chair and read the National Geographic from cover to cover. Unfortunately Maggie's mother has been suffering from onset Alzheimers from a young age and Maggie knows that her Mother will never see the places she dreamed of visiting now. Maggie hikes the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, goes to Bolivia, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt, India, Thailand, Cambodia to name just a few places. A travel addict myself I loved the descriptions her agonising trek to Machu Picchu, working at a sanctuary for rescues monkeys. She travels to some of the touristy places and to the more rural less visited spots - hard core back packing. In Rwanda she visits Murambi one of the locations where 45,000 lost their life in the genocide and leaves you holding your breath when she learns how they were slaughtered. "If you had known me, and you had really known yourself, you would have not killed me"a message that visitors read as they see the skeletons and remains of the tragically killed. This is a remarkable memoir of an incredibly brave lady. Even though I knew maggie must have made it to the end of the journey many times I was willing her to get through the dangerous situations she had found herself stuck in again and again. I was so moved by the author's way of communicating with the reader and how she shared her grief of slowly losing her mother and how she deals with it mentality. Sights, sounds, flashbacks, joyful moments, endless friendship, and worries this story had it all. Inspired beyond belief - I would highly recommend this read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Downs

    A tour de force!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime by Maggie Downs is a travel memoir. Maggie is anticipating a grieving process as her mother nears the end of her life due to Alzheimer's disease. She decides to take a year of her life and travel in honor of her mother to all the places her mom had wanted to visit. Maggie is not really emotionally prepared for the hardships of travel at the beginning of the trip. There are times of joyful insight and other times of dee Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime by Maggie Downs is a travel memoir. Maggie is anticipating a grieving process as her mother nears the end of her life due to Alzheimer's disease. She decides to take a year of her life and travel in honor of her mother to all the places her mom had wanted to visit. Maggie is not really emotionally prepared for the hardships of travel at the beginning of the trip. There are times of joyful insight and other times of deep despair during Maggie's travels. "In the midst of chasing life, I'll have discovered I am mortal, decidedly so, and that has to be enough. I will be fragile, I will be sorrowful, I will be wounded, and I will be capable of finding pinpricks of light among the darkness." Many times Maggie wrestled with the knowledge that her mother had to linger for ten years with this debilitating disease. I enjoyed reading about the places she visited. I was surprised that many of the areas Maggie stayed were places which had been war-torn and harbored sadness among the people, such as Rwanda. Some destinations were not a pleasure trip for sure! I loved her descriptions of the approach at Macchu Picchu. Her experience listening to the prayers and hymns on the top of Mount Sinai was beautifully written. A touching tribute to the love she has for her mother. Publication Date: May 12, 2020 Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    I won’t be the first or last to point it out but see no way around saying it precisely: Braver Than You Think by Maggie Downs is precisely the book for right now. I have no doubt that Downs would be aggrieved when asked about having to cancel a publicity tour, to not have the opportunity to speak to people, to not have readings for reasons both professional and compassionate. No sane person would wish a sweeping illness on the planet and no one would want to not have the opportunity to promote y I won’t be the first or last to point it out but see no way around saying it precisely: Braver Than You Think by Maggie Downs is precisely the book for right now. I have no doubt that Downs would be aggrieved when asked about having to cancel a publicity tour, to not have the opportunity to speak to people, to not have readings for reasons both professional and compassionate. No sane person would wish a sweeping illness on the planet and no one would want to not have the opportunity to promote years of work. But this book is perfect for this moment. The book has a terrific, succinct elevator pitch premise but is based in actual tragedy and grief. Downs’ mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, seeing that her mother is not only facing mortality but also losing the essence of herself, Downs takes it upon herself to complete her mother’s bucket list of travel and adventures over the course of a year. She begins the trip with her new husband (a sky-diving instructor who she met while leaping out of a plane) on their honeymoon but must continue the journey on her own for the better part of the year while goes back to work and home. What follows is a supremely comforting book even while Downs is battling horrific challenges. The book begins with her in Egypt during the Arab Spring. This in media res opening isn’t revisited until some two thirds into the book and her journey. Before then we accompany Downs as she battles monkeys at a sanctuary (a scene that is greatly helped by those having recently viewed Tiger King and wished that it had people in it who were, you know, likable), freezes through mountainous passes, prays in India, and wrestles with the memories of her family and the mystery of what will happen next, transitioning from being a daughter to thinking about her own new family through marriage. Downs shines when describing the sensory details of what she is experiencing, particularly the glories of foods and the physical discomforts into which she has thrown herself while hiking, working with animals, while bone tired and cold. She travels with a “fifty-pound clown car” of a backpack. This same backpack, when cleaned in a steaming hot bath tub, turns the water “a gray dark, like a sooty tea.” The prose is straightforward in setting scenes, clarity of place, and exactly what happens when. Downs saves the more showy writing for section ending bon mots, little bows to encapsulate the larger ideas at play in the scenario. These are effective and feel genuine in the reading, like we are learning these little truths with Downs as she is realizing them. It is easy to imagine some of them being embroidered onto something in some hipster’s home. And, I mean this sweetly, the writing doesn’t ask much of its audience in return. Downs’ prose is easy going and friendly, using figurative language only when it is precisely what fits in that moment, eschewing flowery prose to reach the widest possible audience. When working in Rwanda, looking at the devastation wrought by the genocide, Downs is overwhelmed by the crushing grief of it, recognizing her place as an outsider and her position of powerlessness. “There is nothing I can do,” Downs writes “but let the sadness burrow inside me. What else can be done when surrounded by so many ghosts?” The phrase is apt and the pain well painted but the reader knows that all of her experiences are filtered through the coming loss of her mother. When her husband, early in the journey departs for home, Downs writes “I still miss Jason, of course. It’s the hollow situated just under my ribcage, a place of echoes and rustling leaves, but I’m starting to see how I can live with that feeling there. That ache is becoming a part of me.” The reader knows, even as protagonist Downs does not, what narrator Downs has laid out: that this book is about preparing for grief, that it has stages that do not fit neatly in acronyms. While Downs has extraordinary adventures and bears witness to extraordinary horrors, she is careful to not present herself as any kind of savior, sidestepping the kind of issues that have plagued ecotourism and white savior complex narratives in missionary work. This is largely achieved through a very precise kind of honesty about what is driving this journey. Braver Than You Think is divided into three sections of “Love,” “Death,” and “Life.” The procession of these in this order will aid anyone wanting to very quickly distill what the book has to say about processes of grief but the first and third section names could easily switch. It is a more complex approach, a less neat and pat approach to these ideas. Early in the book, Downs writes “I put myself here on purpose, chasing adventure for the sake of living deliberately and passionately. This is the risk of being an active and living participant in the world. Death happens because life does.” The passage sent me scrambling, ringing some bell in my head. I saw where Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I’ve never really cared for Thoreau. For all of his ideas, he never really left home. Downs leaves home and enacts things Thoreau could never dare to do, braver, indeed, than this bristly man. Braver Than You Think is a document of love in the face of illness, hope when things are terminal. It is about pressing on with dreams and goals. It is about the connectedness between people around the world, about seeking for meaning and satisfaction in adventure. It is a travelogue when we can’t leave our homes. The comparisons to works like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love were perhaps inevitable but Downs has created and documented something individual and specific in its own right. It also is precisely the book for this moment.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer England

    Wow. This starts out slow and then becomes incredible. I believe in Divine Intervention and this book certainly comes to me at a time when I am just about to experience the Alzheimer's scenario. At times I felt like I couldn't breathe. Even though I was reading the book knowing it was in the past I felt myself praying to get Maggie through. This is uplifting and eye opening. Thanks Maggie for writing this book and more for taking me on an incredible adventure through your words.

  7. 4 out of 5

    April Morin

    I felt like I traveled the 17 countries in a year with Maggie Downs as I read her book, Braver Than You Think. She is an outstanding story teller and can describe a setting placing you there. I laughed about her time spent with Barbara and cried about her mom as well as Stick Dog. I haven't traveled the world and appreciated her descriptions of so many places - both the good and the bad.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jess Witkins

    This book is beautiful. Part travelogue, part memoir, Braver Than You Think follows Maggie Downs as she leaves a stable job for a year of backpacking, exploring the places she and her mother used to talk about visiting when she was young. Now, Maggie's mother has been battling Alzheimer's Disease for years. She cannot stay at home safely by herself anymore, let alone travel the world to see the wonders that she would share with her daughter in National Geographic Magazines years ago. At times, t This book is beautiful. Part travelogue, part memoir, Braver Than You Think follows Maggie Downs as she leaves a stable job for a year of backpacking, exploring the places she and her mother used to talk about visiting when she was young. Now, Maggie's mother has been battling Alzheimer's Disease for years. She cannot stay at home safely by herself anymore, let alone travel the world to see the wonders that she would share with her daughter in National Geographic Magazines years ago. At times, the book is mesmerizing as Maggie makes her way by bus, motorcycle, and on foot to experience life in Bolivia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Egypt, Jordan, and more. This is no resort life. She's couch surfing, hostel living, volunteering at a monkey sanctuary, dj'ing for a country music station in Africa, and laying cement to fill potholes. She is brave - to trust that the scrapes she gets into are teaching her something, and to continue to move forward despite feeling directionless. The book is also poignant and wistful, full of memories both happy and regrettable. It is also the story of a mother/daughter relationship and what happens when that relationship changes, or worse, ends. For Maggie, her mother's dementia felt like she'd lost her mom a long time ago, but as her mother's physical health declines in addition, she reexamines their time together and questions what every child who idolizes their parent wonders: Do I make her proud? Stunningly written, weaving between action adventure scenes, chance encounters and new friendships and connections, Maggie tells the story of her mother, her family, and what comes next. I want to sit on the floor and look at photographs with the author and her family. I want to keep hearing these stories.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Zarrow

    When I read this memoir, I expected to gain insight into the author’s experience with her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and decline. The memoir does, in fact, detail that story but it also tells another story, one of travel and adventure, of grasping the meaning of life through different experiences around the world. I was very moved by the author’s ability to describe grief and the head space of the bereaved in ways that resonated with my own experience. This story includes both the universal When I read this memoir, I expected to gain insight into the author’s experience with her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and decline. The memoir does, in fact, detail that story but it also tells another story, one of travel and adventure, of grasping the meaning of life through different experiences around the world. I was very moved by the author’s ability to describe grief and the head space of the bereaved in ways that resonated with my own experience. This story includes both the universal and the personal, written in beautiful, clear prose.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    When Maggie's mom is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Maggie decides to take a year and travel the world, visiting the places that had been on her mom's bucket list. This combination of travelogue/memoir is a tribute to her mother who inspired her and a moving exploration of grief as she comes to terms with the loss of her mother, even before she dies.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I received an advanced reader copy of this from NetGalley. This book reminded me a lot of the book The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan. It's about a woman who travels the globe, visiting all of the places her mother would visit if she could. Her mom had Alzheimers and was at the stage where she did not really remember she had a daughter. During this time of COVID-19, I have been really feeling some wanderlust and this book brought me to many places. Often the author relates some of the lessons she I received an advanced reader copy of this from NetGalley. This book reminded me a lot of the book The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan. It's about a woman who travels the globe, visiting all of the places her mother would visit if she could. Her mom had Alzheimers and was at the stage where she did not really remember she had a daughter. During this time of COVID-19, I have been really feeling some wanderlust and this book brought me to many places. Often the author relates some of the lessons she's learning to what is going on with her mom. It was an enjoyable read. Many of the locations she visited are not locations that would've been my first choice to visit, so I enjoyed learning about the them.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Madam Adam

    An inspirational read which made me cry, laugh and gasp as I followed Maggie on her journey around the world in the midst of losing her mother to Alzheimer's. This is a must read. It highlights the light and shade of travel and is an honest reflection on the challenges faced by a family grieving for a loved one. I'm sure it will help lots of people out there realise they are not alone and are much stronger than they think. Thanks Maggie Downs for a wonderful book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    I really enjoyed this book. Maggie Downs is an engaging writer, and it's a fast read that does a good job transporting you to different places. I also appreciated her own reflections on her family, mother's illness, and growing up. I have also been fortunate to engage in long-term travel and it captures the rootlessness and inspiration that comes from those experiences. However, I have two major issues to bring up. Firstly, Maggie volunteers at a number of different NGOs/non-profits during her t I really enjoyed this book. Maggie Downs is an engaging writer, and it's a fast read that does a good job transporting you to different places. I also appreciated her own reflections on her family, mother's illness, and growing up. I have also been fortunate to engage in long-term travel and it captures the rootlessness and inspiration that comes from those experiences. However, I have two major issues to bring up. Firstly, Maggie volunteers at a number of different NGOs/non-profits during her travels. I don't know about the specific non-profits and think that it's possible volunteer ethically with rescued animals, but overwhelmingly, I want people to know that voluntourism is a dangerous practice and overall very bad. I wanted Maggie to make that clear for potential people that wanted to follow in her footsteps, but unfortunately she did not. Secondly, I've traveled to the majority of places Maggie goes and she far overstates some of the danger in some of them. I understand that this was for dramatic effect but it did rub me the wrong way. However, these minor flaws did not take away from my enjoyment of the book overall, and would recommend it for anyone interested in reading travel memoirs.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Terri Thill

    I am so happy I won this ARC through Goodreads giveaways. I am not sure I would've read it otherwise and would have missed out on a remarkable journey. I have never had the desire to visit the places Maggie does in this book, but she writes it all so well, I felt like I was experiencing it all with her and enjoying it. I lost my grandma to Alzheimers years ago so I was also able to make that connection as well. Thank you Goodreads and Counterpoint for this ARC and thank you to Maggie Downs for s I am so happy I won this ARC through Goodreads giveaways. I am not sure I would've read it otherwise and would have missed out on a remarkable journey. I have never had the desire to visit the places Maggie does in this book, but she writes it all so well, I felt like I was experiencing it all with her and enjoying it. I lost my grandma to Alzheimers years ago so I was also able to make that connection as well. Thank you Goodreads and Counterpoint for this ARC and thank you to Maggie Downs for sharing your story!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Parrott

    Backpacking the world or going through grief are both daunting. In 'Braver Than You Think' Downs lovingly, beautifully and bravely recounts how she traveled both at once. My copy was a gift through Goodreads First Reads.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kendall Brunson

    Fantastic read! Maggie's journey takes you to places in the world you didn't know existed and will inspire you. The interwoven story of her mother is a powerful and moving tribute motherhood. This is a must read!

  17. 5 out of 5

    MaeFisher

    This book was everything I had hoped it would be after the synopsis. I was fortunate enough to have received a free copy through a goodreads giveaway. This book captivated me from the first pages. The writing is beautiful and it will hook you. I had to purposeful slow down my pace because I wanted to savor the story. I am so happy I took this in chunks (which is something I never normally do, but it just felt right with this one!) I would highly recommend this book to everyone. You will be taken This book was everything I had hoped it would be after the synopsis. I was fortunate enough to have received a free copy through a goodreads giveaway. This book captivated me from the first pages. The writing is beautiful and it will hook you. I had to purposeful slow down my pace because I wanted to savor the story. I am so happy I took this in chunks (which is something I never normally do, but it just felt right with this one!) I would highly recommend this book to everyone. You will be taken on a fantastical journey to places most people only dream of going. It will make you reflect on your own life and how sometimes we have obstacles that it seems like we’ll never overcome. It will empower you. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emi Bevacqua

    When Maggie considered her mother lost to Alzheimers, she quit her journalist job, left the country with her brand new husband, and then continued on without him on a journey through 16 more countries. Along the way she describes all she encounters, from the people, flora, fauna and her own thoughts - colorfully, honestly and with humor. Downs is a remarkable travel writer, I loved her descriptions of places I've been as much as those I haven't yet. Maybe if I weren't living overseas for the las When Maggie considered her mother lost to Alzheimers, she quit her journalist job, left the country with her brand new husband, and then continued on without him on a journey through 16 more countries. Along the way she describes all she encounters, from the people, flora, fauna and her own thoughts - colorfully, honestly and with humor. Downs is a remarkable travel writer, I loved her descriptions of places I've been as much as those I haven't yet. Maybe if I weren't living overseas for the last four years, a continent away from my parents and siblings and their issues and losses, and feeling wracked with guilt about it, maybe then I'd be able to read this and enjoy the beauty of it more. But as it is, I'm afraid I've projected my own guilt onto Maggie, fixated not on her own adventures but rather about her sister and father who are left behind, dutifully visiting the mother slowly disintegrating in Ohio. I can't say for a fact what I would do in her place, if my mother were dying of Alzheimers, so I do feel bad judging her for taking off. But after her mother died and she wrote about that loss so searingly and eloquently I forgave her. "Though we will continue after she's gone, our family will only be the remains of something that once was. We will always yearn to be whole again." She writes with the same veracious conviction about how hard marriage can be. And I feel strongly that her final message for those worried about inheriting Alzheimers is a beautiful one, "Jason and I decided risk was a better path than regret."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I received a free digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. Downs' memoir explores her grief as her mother descends into late-stage Alzheimer's disease. Knowing her mother cannot finish her own bucket list, and that there are destinations they will not visit together as they'd hoped, she sets off on a year-long excursion that takes her to several continents. The memoir is written chronologically for the most part, but as people and places bring her mother to mind, she reflects organically on I received a free digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. Downs' memoir explores her grief as her mother descends into late-stage Alzheimer's disease. Knowing her mother cannot finish her own bucket list, and that there are destinations they will not visit together as they'd hoped, she sets off on a year-long excursion that takes her to several continents. The memoir is written chronologically for the most part, but as people and places bring her mother to mind, she reflects organically on the person her mother was and their close relationship. Many travel memoirs have a whiff of entitlement or can feel flighty, but Downs' book is weighted with more gravitas, both because of her mother's illness and in how she approached her travels. Downs traveled on a limited budget and often stopped to volunteer along the way. There is also a balance between visiting touristy locales and less-visited spots such as genocide memorials in Rwanda. Downs never shies away from sharing her negative experiences, either, whether in facing illness, danger, or grief. I found the ending a but rushed, but all in all, this a very approachable and compelling memoir and I hope to read more from Downs in the future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate Anthony

    Braver Than You Think: Around The World On The Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime - Maggie Downs Rating 5 / 5 Stars **Thank you to Netgalley, Counterpoint, and of course, Maggie Downs for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Braver Than You Think was born out of suffering and grief. In 2010, Downs took an inexpensive trip to places her mother had always wanted to see but was now suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s. A reporter from Palm Springs and newly married, Downs starts her journey Braver Than You Think: Around The World On The Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime - Maggie Downs Rating 5 / 5 Stars **Thank you to Netgalley, Counterpoint, and of course, Maggie Downs for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Braver Than You Think was born out of suffering and grief. In 2010, Downs took an inexpensive trip to places her mother had always wanted to see but was now suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s. A reporter from Palm Springs and newly married, Downs starts her journey with her new husband, Jason as a form of Honeymooning. But then the changes come and Jason returns to work. Maggie is left to make her way through South America, Asia, and Africa - all on her mother’s bucket list. Braver details her experiences filled with low budget living, paying for food via volunteering, and solo travel thoughts. While at a yoga retreat in Egypt, her mother passes. She describes those she had come to know trying to help her through the pain. After returning for the funeral, she sets off for more adventure - but were they for her or her mother? Was she escaping from some deep-seated thoughts? Downs writing is exceptional and flows perfectly - something I enjoy when reading about traveling. The funny and lively moments mix with the deep and sad ones focused on her mother’s illness and death. All in all, this book fulfilled everything it set out to do. As a traveler, I will be picking this up again in the future. It seems to be a book that can mean different things to a person at different stages of their life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate Maruyama

    This book was amazing. It grabbed me by the collar from the first pages and took me around the world. Downs pays attention to all the details in traveling that I love, the people, the culture, the obstacles, the victories, the colors and sounds and smells of a place--and the food! I felt like I was there each and every time and each and every part of the journey is completely different. Throughout her journey she weaves in the story of her mother who is dying of Alzheimer's, but she brings her t This book was amazing. It grabbed me by the collar from the first pages and took me around the world. Downs pays attention to all the details in traveling that I love, the people, the culture, the obstacles, the victories, the colors and sounds and smells of a place--and the food! I felt like I was there each and every time and each and every part of the journey is completely different. Throughout her journey she weaves in the story of her mother who is dying of Alzheimer's, but she brings her to life on the page and we are with her as she wrestles with losing this woman who made her. The best gift for friends who want to travel, or moms, or anyone you know, really. It's first on my Christmas list for everyone this year.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    A memoir that inspires understanding of other cultures—and yourself. This is such an amazing memoir. Braver Than You Think not only provides insight into different parts of the world, but it also touches the hidden territories inside oneself. I absolute love the way Downs wove her own experiences into this book and applaud her for the vulnerability and emotional honesty she shared. The mother and daughter relationship at the core of this memoir felt to me like the pulsing heart of this book. I’m v A memoir that inspires understanding of other cultures—and yourself. This is such an amazing memoir. Braver Than You Think not only provides insight into different parts of the world, but it also touches the hidden territories inside oneself. I absolute love the way Downs wove her own experiences into this book and applaud her for the vulnerability and emotional honesty she shared. The mother and daughter relationship at the core of this memoir felt to me like the pulsing heart of this book. I’m very grateful Downs highlighted the complexity of a relationship with someone affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. I briefly volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association, and I love how she portrayed the complexity of being a family member or a caregiver of someone with dementia. This is a unique memoir that not only allows you to travel vicariously but also inspires a personal journey of transformation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela Fuentes

    Beautiful and captivating! From the descriptions of food and countries to the descriptions of grief and loneliness ... you could taste everything Maggie experiences on her journey around the world. I fully recommend to anyone who enjoys traveling or wants to travel in the future. The humanity that slinks off the pages into your soul about motherhood, being an adult child, mourning the loss of a loved one intertwines with the humanity of culture, lovely exchanges between humans across the globe, Beautiful and captivating! From the descriptions of food and countries to the descriptions of grief and loneliness ... you could taste everything Maggie experiences on her journey around the world. I fully recommend to anyone who enjoys traveling or wants to travel in the future. The humanity that slinks off the pages into your soul about motherhood, being an adult child, mourning the loss of a loved one intertwines with the humanity of culture, lovely exchanges between humans across the globe, and the mourning of genocides and ancient places.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    So wonderful and joyous to read from start to finish. Similar story to Wild or Eat, Pray, Love, but it felt so much more authentic and real to me. Each story from all the exciting places Maggie travels to comes to life with such vivid imagery. One of those books that I devoured quickly because I didn’t want to put it down, but them am sad when it’s finished so quickly.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This book was featured in an LA Times insert and I knew I had to read it. This is like Eat, Pray, Love, but relatable for those of us who are watching parents age as opposed to dealing with divorce. I would have liked the book better if I connected more with the places she went (and how she traveled - no hostel for me!). The book described the loss felt and caused by Alzheimer's so beautifully. I recommend for anyone who is losing a parent to dementia or Alzheimer's... Or to friends of those.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill Morse

    Great Read First of all, I need to preface this review by saying I am in the book. Maggie visited us on her trip. I didn't jump ahead to see what she had to say about her stay in Cambodia, although I have to admit I was curious and more than a bit nervous. I read voraciously. This is one of the best books I have read in years. It's more than just the storey of a young single woman who took a year off to travel the world and come to grips with loss. It's entertaining, funny, heartbreaking in places Great Read First of all, I need to preface this review by saying I am in the book. Maggie visited us on her trip. I didn't jump ahead to see what she had to say about her stay in Cambodia, although I have to admit I was curious and more than a bit nervous. I read voraciously. This is one of the best books I have read in years. It's more than just the storey of a young single woman who took a year off to travel the world and come to grips with loss. It's entertaining, funny, heartbreaking in places and it makes you reevaluate your life; especially in today's world. We all have some extra time today. Read Braver Than You Think.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    A great read!!! I devoured this book. The travel parts of the book are fantastic. Maggie tells the stories in an incredibly interesting way and the sights, sounds, and feels from her descriptions makes it seem like you were there. She definitely can write- tells a compelling story. Slow down and enjoy if you can. Next - you need to publish a coffee table book with all the photographs!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Young

    I loved this memoir. Maggie’s journey will bring you joy, laughter and tears, it’s a beautiful story so well written and so meaningful. Despite the underlining story of her mothers tragic decline into Alzheimers the novel and Maggie’s journey around the world is so incredibly uplifting. I can’t wait to read her next novel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katie Evans

    This book a is a beautiful story of life and adventure. I was moved so much - from sadness to hope to anxiety to curiosity. I’m amazed by Maggie’s bravery and willingness to expose such vulnerable parts of herself so that others who grieve can feel connected. I feel like I just went around the world from my living room.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A vivid, heart-wrenching, ultimately redemptive book about life and loss and the journeys we must make to come to terms with some of life's hard lessons. Maggie Downs writes honesty and vividly about the backpacking trip she took in honor of her mother who succumbed to early-onset Alzheimers when Downs was still a young woman. As her mother reached the final stages she embarked on a journey to all the places her mother never got to see, but ultimately discovers that while one might enjoy adventu A vivid, heart-wrenching, ultimately redemptive book about life and loss and the journeys we must make to come to terms with some of life's hard lessons. Maggie Downs writes honesty and vividly about the backpacking trip she took in honor of her mother who succumbed to early-onset Alzheimers when Downs was still a young woman. As her mother reached the final stages she embarked on a journey to all the places her mother never got to see, but ultimately discovers that while one might enjoy adventure, it is perhaps not where the answer lies. Terrific read.

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