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Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman [Paperback]

Alice Steinbach
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 12 2002
"In many ways, I was an independent woman," writes Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Alice Steinbach. “For years I’d made my own choices, paid my own bills, shoveled my own snow.” But somehow she had become dependent in quite another way. “I had fallen into the habit of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me.” But who was she away from the people and things that defined her? In this exquisite book, Steinbach searches for the answer to this question in some of the most beautiful and exciting places in the world: Paris, where she finds a soul mate; Oxford, where she takes a course on the English village; Milan, where she befriends a young woman about to be married. Beautifully illustrated with postcards from Steinbach’s journeys, this revealing and witty book transports you into a fascinating inner and outer journey, an unforgettable voyage of discovery.

Praise for Without Reservations:

“A rich account of one woman’s journey through Europe and into the self.”
—Us Weekly

“I loved going along with Alice Steinbach as she goes off on this rare, wonderful adventure, an escape into discovering herself and some of the truly magical places in this world.” —DOMINICK DUNNE

“More than a chronicle of the writer’s search for self-discovery, Without Reservations is a lovely travelogue.”
—Chicago Tribune

“The best books, like the best vacations, contain unexpected delights, surprises that enrich the soul as well as the senses. This is a book about love, and longing, and the passage of time. It’s about hope, and courage, and the resiliency of memory. This book is a feast. Bon appétit!
—The Des Moines Register

“Beautifully written, clear, insightful, thoughtful . . . Steinbach’s book should be taken in slowly and savored all the way.”
—St. Petersburg Times

Frequently Bought Together

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman + Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In a travel-book-cum-memoir set against a glamorous background of European cities, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Steinbach describes the months she spent traveling after she took a sabbatical from her job as columnist for the Baltimore Sun. For Steinbach, traveling is an exercise in reconnecting with a more independent and uninhibited side of her personality. Her not-quite-spontaneous adventure begins in Paris, where she finds a kindred spirit in a worldly Japanese businessman. From there she heads off to Oxford, where she takes a course in English village life, and on to Milan, where she meets the most charming of her fellow travelers, a young American girl soon to be married. The obstacles Steinbach faces on her journeys seem minor--overcoming a fear of ballroom dancing in Oxford and putting aside the habit of always doing "at least two things at once." Only in Milan, when she was nearly mugged, does Steinbach experience anything harrowing. Though the descriptions of each locale are thin, they are not really the purpose of this memoir; rather, the author's intent is to connect emotionally with each city and to learn "to take chances. To have adventures [and] to see if I could still hack it on my own, away from the security of work, friends and an established identity." Supplying more finely observed details might have made this a richer book, but the writing is generally optimistic, warm and genuine in a Chicken-Soup-for-Travelers kind of way. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steinbach took an extended leave from her newspaper job to travel around Europe in search of spontaneity. She started off in Paris, where she got romantically involved with a Japanese man and shopped; moved on to London, where she shopped some more; took a course at Oxford University; and headed to Italy, where she wandered through Milan, Venice, Rome, and the Tuscan countryside--and shopped a bit more. Chapters begin with postcards sent to Alice from Alice, each with a bit of advice or a lesson learned. Steinbach, divorced and with grown children, appears to be much at ease traveling alone, making new friends along the way. Her mental journey through the past and present and the reassessment of her life, rather than descriptions of the places visited or the people met, are at the heart of the narrative. This pleasant, slightly romantic, but unremarkable journey will find an audience in large public libraries. (Photographs not seen..
---Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Freel Lib., North Adams
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
I purchased "Without Reservations" after returning home from a quick trip to Europe. You see I had left my heart there and I needed a quick fix while pining away at home waiting for yet another friend to venture out and dare get a passport.
Alice Steinbach writes with a capturing style about her adventures abroad (England, Paris, Italy etc..) all alone. For once a woman who believes in experience over fear! She is a mother, divorced, successful and still desiring a fulfilling life. I admire her spirit and enthusiasm for life. While capturing her inner fears she relies on her wit and knowledge to overcome what would leave most of us sitting at home cowering in a corner.
Ms. Steinbach meets interesting people along the way, a fashionable older woman in Paris, a Japanese man who shares her love of Monet, a young student eager to grow and many others. She inspires one to want to reach out and learn something from the others around us, not for gossip, but for true wealth of character. I believe after reading this book I will no longer seek the security of familar travel partners but instead search for a lesser known commodity, me, a suitcase, a destination and a dream! Sounds exciting to me!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Carpe Diem April 22 2004
Who doesn't dream of quitting her job and traveling the world? Alice Steinbach wangles a leave of absence from her job and goes to Europe -- the dream with training wheels. Even though she has the security of knowing her home and job are waiting for her and she goes to countries that are comfortably strange, it is still a big leap for her. She makes the most of it and tells a great story.
Steinbach seems to make friends everywhere she goes. She travels with the attitude of a college student backpacking through Europe, hooking up with temporary friends at each stop. She treats her affair with Naohiro like a summer romance, intense, but sure to be temporary. Sometimes you forget that she is a middle-aged woman with two grown sons and a responsible career back home.
And that is the point. She wants to see who she is when the responsibilities of adulthood are stripped away. Is the young woman who wasn't afraid to take chances still there somewhere? Who is Alice Steinbach when she is not defined as "mother" and "reporter"? In nine months of travels through Paris, Britain, and Italy, she gradually sheds her inhibitions and fears, and gets reacquainted with living for the day.
Without Reservations is an upbeat, sometimes bittersweet, narrative of what feels like a prelude to a bigger leap. I am looking forward to her next book, Educating Alice.
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This travel memoir got off to a slow start -- it lacked the quirkiness & unexpected that I like in travel writing --food was "delicious", bells "tinkled." I felt like the writing was dry, predictable. Rather than experiencing the immediacy of her surroundings, Steinbach allowed them to send her back into the past, where she wallowed in memories of her ex-husband, her Scottish grandmother, her "former" life. About halfway through the book, about the time Steinbach hit the Imperial War Museum in London (one of my favorites) I became more engaged in Steinbach's journey. Although Steinbach is independent, she recognizes the importance of other people in her life. The most noteworthy aspect of the trip is how Steinbach manages to hook up with locals and fellow travelers --men and women of varied ages and backgrounds -- and describes them & their shared experiences in delightful detail (like the larger-than-life Australian psychoanalyst that she meets at the Freud museum, whose application of red-red lipstick only approximates the shape of her mouth, and the tweeded "spinster" who accompanies Steinbach on a lemon curd shopping expedition in the Cotswolds). Steinbach also strikes up a charming friendship with a Japanese businessman -- which keeps the reader guessing. This is more of a pleasant, reflective memoir than a traditional travel book. It doesn't detail many laugh-out-loud experiences, but it will make you smile.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Another Self-Absorbed Look at Europe July 17 2002
By A Customer
This is another in a long line of travel books the theme of which seems to be "look at me appreciatring Europe!" I have been to a number of places the author describes, or fails to describe, and could barely recognize them. What is missing is some real idiosyncracy, not just "here I am communing with some long-dead poet or other, forming "instant friendships" with all the most interesting people, and of course, finding a wonderful lover. I much prefer a book like "Extra Virgin" with its sense of the absurd and self-deprecating humor, or for that matter, the incomparable Bill Bryson. I ended up not really finishing the book, but merely skimming to see if there was any interest in reading the author's impressions of my own favorite places. There wasn't. Perhaps it's because the author has very little visual sense: if I hadn't actually been to Ravello and Asolo, I would never have been able to picture them from her descriptions. She is too busy looking inward at how it all affects her. If you want that kind of travel writing, then I can understand why you would enjoy this book.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
good read, especially enjoyed the interview at the end of the book,
Published 2 months ago by gardengirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully layered tale of travel and life
I just finished this book and will miss spending time following Ms. Steinbach around on her travels,reading her musings on her life and the world around her. Read more
Published on March 5 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant journey from the mind of a empty nester
I liked this book because it opened up my mind to the opportunities available to those of us post children. Read more
Published on July 28 2003 by G. Powell
1.0 out of 5 stars Save your money!
This would have to rank as the most tedious, self-indulgent drivel I have ever had the misfortune to read. Read more
Published on July 10 2003 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars An independent woman looks at her life through travel
Without Reservations is a delightful tale of a mid-age woman rediscovering her life. Alice Steinbach is for the first time in many years a truly "independent woman," without the... Read more
Published on July 6 2003 by Erin O.
5.0 out of 5 stars Did Not Want This Book To End
I enjoyed this book so much because I have been to most of the places she travels and I am probably about her age so I could empathize with her reasons for going. Read more
Published on June 26 2003 by Gayle Kesinger
4.0 out of 5 stars a charming book about midlife adventures
I picked this book up on a whim with no preconceptions about it and loved it. After journeying with Steinbach to Paris, Oxford, and Italy, I know I will be giving this book to many... Read more
Published on May 28 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Should have read the reviews
I agree with most of the online reviews....I picked up this book looking for some really interesting characters with wry humor sprinkled about each encounter... Read more
Published on May 11 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Helped me sleep
I have to admit that I did not get very far in this book before realizing that I had 42 other books on my shelf to read and I had no obligation to finish this rather uninteresting... Read more
Published on April 24 2003 by Lia Kaufman
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
This is an entertaining travel diary focused on exploration of being alone. In the book the author describes her travels and people she meets with detail that is important to her... Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2003
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