Beyond Guilt Trips by Anu Taranath

Publication Date: May 2019

Genre: Travel, Non-Fiction

Travelling abroad harbours the promise of adventure and experiences but are travellers really prepared for the surprises that await them?

Through Beyond Guilt Trips, Dr Taranth critically analyses the before, during and after of the promises international from various travel stories. The book targets readers who are from the global north wishing to travel to low-income countries to broaden their horizons. However, it will also be a useful resource for people on the other side of the pond to understand well-intentioned and curious Westerners.

From her own travels as a college student and those of her students, she found that harder questions than easy answers were raised while travelling to low-income countries. Hence she advocates for mindful travel, “…involves slowing down our thoughts and learning to stay with our feelings. Mindful travel is also these uncomfortable stories in uncomfortable situations, and sitting within our discomfort.” Throughout the book, she reiterates the importance of building empathy; She quotes Helena Maria Viramontes, “Empathy is the glue that makes the words of a writer stick to the reader, and this era of globalization, understanding and feeling the life of another through the narratives is a non-violent act of sheer human importance.”

She acknowledges that there is no magic bullet to various institutionalized problems like racism, poverty and other forms of inequalities. Rather, she offers that international travellers should study history and geopolitics to begin to understand the communities that they will be visiting, This also helps them view the people and cultures with the lens of intersectionality and empathy. She is a big advocate for “charity begins at home”- Westerners should first seek to do good at home before attempting to go abroad. Because social injustices are cross-cultural and cross-geographical.

Taranth does a commendable job of weaving academic sources, her experiences, various anecdotes as well as providing questions for reflection in this short text. Readers will appreciate her insights and going forward, be compassionate with those who are culturally insulated because you really can’t blame people for who what they do not know.

P.S. I received this ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, where I originally posted this review.

Photo Credit: Goodreads.

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