Grant Lingel’s ‘Imagine: A Vagabond Story’
Instead of dealing with the uncertainty of life that comes after university graduation like most other young Americans, Grant decides to head out on the journey of a lifetime. Just 7 credits shy of his own degree and only $300 to his name, he travels south to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala on a scandalous adventure and no real end in sight.
As this is Grant’s first publication, the story seems to start off a little bit on shaky ground. The writing is definitely rough around the edges, much like someone’s own personal journal, but I guess that just adds to the whole authentic, backpacker vibe it wants to portray. The opening scenes describe the apprehension for the future that finally leads him to his plans for travel, and the goodbyes to his parents and life in Buffalo that ultimately leave him in tears.
After that we are whisked away to Playa del Carmen, Mexico and taken through the personal experience of someone staying in a hostel for the very first time. He is quickly brought to a natural high while surrounded by the expectedly fun and laid-back atmosphere travelers from all around the world bring to these temporary homes. This natural high, however, is soon replaced with severely drug-induced nights that melt into days after he finds a job at a 5 star resort, turning his trip into more of an extended Spring Break instead of a true cultural experience. Talk of his numerous sexual exploits (exploits being the appropriate word here), his run in with the corrupt Mexican cops and his constantly-getting-stoned habit leave the reader (me) feeling little sympathy over his apprehension for the future, but definitely keep him/her (me) wanting to know what happens next.
Finally, Grant cuts a break and hitches a ride with six others driving a van south to Belize and Guatemala. It is at this point the reader gets a breath of fresh air and the feeling of true adventure and vagabond life begins. We get to see more of what this part of the world has to offer as these guys jump off waterfalls, explore caves, and hike through the jungles of Tikal. The adventure seems of an overly free and fun nature, but eventually Grant says his goodbyes, yet again.
At this point, Grant finds himself bouncing from hostel to hostel and, like a true vagabond, plan to plan with a live-for-today mindset. His story’s experiences start to stack on top of one another, building a more well-rounded book in general and making the mix of excitement, sadness and happiness come alive.
I can’t help but think about how different Grant’s travels have been compared to my own. Even though his book talks about reaching many of the same places I did while in Guatemala and southern Mexico, his descriptions and stories of daily life are barely relatable to the ones I carry in my mind. For the first part of the book, I had to wonder why he even decided to write it, and who he was writing it for. By the way he kept talking about women and his sexual exploits, it almost seemed focused on gaining him bragging rights to other men. However, it is probably this blatant honesty and carefree behavior that kept the pages turning.
Overall, I think what we do gain is the ability to see Grant grow as a writer and as a person from start to finish. I would be interested in seeing what he is able to accomplish in future works, and whatever travels spawn from this initial outing.
‘Imagine: A Vagabond Story‘ is a whirlwind tale of Grant’s journey with freedom, spontaneity, love and lust through Central America. If this sounds like something you would like to read more of, visit Grant’s website and order a copy today. You can even preview the first few chapters there, as well as view actual photos from the trip!