4 out of 4 stars
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Man Mission by Eytan Uliel is much more than a combination of a travel book and a diary. The book offers highlights and insight into Charlie Brown's life over 15 years. I found Charlie's growth and newfound wisdom particularly interesting.
The story starts with Charlie, Sam, Alec, and Daniel in college, brimming with hope and ideal towards their future. Charlie and Sam propose an idea that the group should travel once every year to a different foreign place so they can see the world beyond their perceived horizon. The idea soon morphs into a test of manliness where every subsequent trip needs to be more challenging than the last. This test results from the characters' simplistic and boyish version of what it takes to be a real man. The 15 adventures into exotic locations range from river kayaking for 80 miles in Australia, hiking on a 30-mile Inca Trail to the top of Machu Pichu in Peru, to ice mountain climbing in Iceland. Intertwined with these adventures are the men's regular life in which they're pressured by work and inundated with family matters.
We can see the rise and fall of their life unfold in each trip, through their contemplation and confessions. For Charlie, his constant struggle to find a balance between the responsibility towards his family and the duty to find his identity troubles his conscience. His uncertainty about himself characterizes his worldview and causes outbursts of raw emotions throughout the book. His subjectivity is then molded by the connections with the people he meets during the trips and by the interactions with the adverse natural conditions. Finally, it manifests into something novel and finds its way into his subconsciousness, into his dreams. I found this development of Charlie, from a fledgling fresh-out-of-college to a man of wisdom who is capable of brutally honest self-reflection, absolutely fascinating.
Other things that stand out to me are the humor and the camaraderie among the men. I often found myself laughing out loud and giggling at the kind of silly conversations and innocent playfulness that only occur among best friends. But assuming that these men are immature is incorrect. Whenever each one of these men has a dark moment in his life, he can always find reliable emotional support within the group.
The author successfully re-creates the vivid scenery and the harsh nature in the places they visit. Eytan also recaptures the various interactions with strangers throughout their journeys. The life stories of people from different cultures and corners of the world interweave with the four men's experience, making their adventures all the more colorful.
This book is well-edited. For the reasons above, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I'd recommend Man Mission to anyone who is looking to broaden their horizon of experience. The book has rough maps and details of the locations, so it can also serve as a reference for travelers.
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