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Book Reviews

Midlife Runaway: A Grown Ups’ Guide to Taking a Year off

by Lynda Cronin

Lynda Cronin’s midlife crisis was fairly typical: the Victoria, B.C., consultant felt burnt out by career woes, the demands of extended family members, and minor health problems. But instead of buying a sports car or having affairs, she and her partner decided to spend the better part of a year travelling around the world.

For Cronin, taking a year off represented an opportunity to re-evaluate her professional life, travel widely, and get away from it all for an extended period. Midlife Runaway is partly the story of her trip, and partly a self-help manual on how others can make this particular dream come true.

Unfortunately, it’s a confusing mix. For example, one reads with the expectation that the portions of Cronin’s travel diaries following each chapter will illustrate the subject at hand (such as what to pack, how to make travel arrangements while you’re on the road, or how to adjust to being back at home). But they don’t – we get the story of her trip, country by country. The diaries, while entertaining, are superficial as travel writing, and the advice portions of the book are repetitive.

There is also a problem of credibility. Cronin is self-employed, her partner a civil servant who was eligible for an unpaid sabbatical; they had no children and no debts when they set off. Though she includes some research on how others in less ideal circumstances can still take off for a year, it’s not very convincing. (For many, the Mustang convertible might prove less costly and more straightforward.)

Cronin is at her best when reflecting on the peculiar type of stress associated with extended travel and its effects on one’s emotional life. She observes, for example, that travelling is not always synonymous with holidaying, and wisely recommends taking periodic trips to the beach as a break from the constant stimulation of new places and people.