This post features a book review of 360 Degrees Longitude by John Higham. I have always enjoyed reading travel books. I particularly like the type that tell a story about an epic overland trip. To give you an idea of the type of book I mean, two of my favourites are Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux and Blood River by Tim Butcher. Yes, I know they are both about travel in Africa. But there is something about that continent that grabs my imagination. Both books share a healthy balance of history and personal experience. Since starting my blog it occurred to me that there must be some family travel books out there. I have been searching for stories of family travels that provide inspiration for adventures.
Book Review of 360 Degrees Longitude by John Higham
360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World narrates the journey of an American family of four. The idea for their trip gestated for more than a decade. But finally John Higham, his wife September and their children aged eight and eleven quit their American suburban lives good-bye. They head off on a year-long round the world trip, encompassing 28 countries. This book documents their experiences and adventures.
360 Degrees Longitude links up with Google Earth as a compliment to the narrative. This enables you to access photos and videos related to their stories. I must admit that this didn’t really appeal to me. I was just looking for a traditional book to read. But these additional features may be useful to some.
I found the book an easy and enjoyable read. It is along the lines of the type of book I was looking for; a story narrating personal experiences as well as describing places. The author characterises the family, so you feel like you get to know their individual personalities a little. It is interesting that throughout the narrative he involves the whole family. He offers the perspectives of other members of the family, along with excerpts from their travel journals, as well as his own.
There are some good suggestions. Such as preparing monthly book parcels to be sent to their current location. Not so relevant these days, but I still liked the idea.
There is an American focus to the text, which can feel a little heavy-handed at times. For example, the author often makes comparisons between places and the USA. And many of the jokes are American centric. It might be an easier read if it was more neutral. But then you may lose some of the personality of the author.
At times, the narrative feels a little rushed. This means there is not always perhaps as much detail as you would like about their experiences of a place and the people they met. It feels like some places are a bit glossed over. But their trip involved a lot of moving along, so they were often not in a place long. So there may well be places where they did not really have many notable anecdotes. Some of the descriptions of places are a little flat and it is a shame that the images do not come to mind more vividly. Perhaps this is a downside of having linked to Google Earth; the detail has been skipped because of the accompanying images.
This book is inspiring if you are thinking about your own round the world family adventure. If you are worried about all the things that can go wrong, this book will show you that they do go wrong, but that you will survive. Adapting to the challenges they faced along the way appeared to bring the family closer together. However, it will not give you a huge amount of detail about destinations. And some people may find the American centric style off-putting.
This book helped confirm my feeling that around the age of their kids would be an ideal time for such a trip. One thing that worries me about long-term travel though is that my daughter is an only child. Would she get bored? Do you know of any books about the travel experiences of one child families?