These are character stories, each uniquely told through a unique voice. They are characters going on journeys who happen to be going on trips. The locales, from a hot springs in Japan to a travel store inside an airport, are described with insider details (I love the joke that everywhere in Japan takes three hours to get to) that gave me a feel for being in places I’ve never been, but these aren’t simply picturesque glimpses, postcard descriptions, we see what the character sees, and feel what they feel. In “Onsen,” the female character uses her relative familiarity with Japan—she has lived there and can read the menus and travel signs—to even the dynamic with her companion, who she feels hasn’t been very attentive to her, but we feel her discontent until the two of them are able to reconnect when they find seclusion in a Japanese hot springs.
I would describe them as more travel-themed than travel stories, and for me that was the most enjoyable part, not knowing from one story to the next if I would get to explore some foreign locale with the characters or get stuck laid over with them, making time in an empty part of an airport, risking getting seen. I’ve already touched on some of my favorites, but I have to mention, “Sales Pitch.” Sharazade sprinkles humor throughout her stories, but this I think of as the comic relief story dropped halfway through the collection. Her humor shines in this first person account told through the character of a cocky young man working in a travel gift shop, who shows an older woman all the advantages of a massage toy, but this humorous story ends up as one of the hottest of the bunch. I highly recommend this collection.