Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner

Honeymoon with My Brother is a memoir of two brothers experiencing your run-of-the-mill, mid-life Republican backpacking crisis after the elder is jilted by his fiance a couple of days before his wedding. Deciding to plunge ahead with both a party for those already committed to arriving for the celebration and then onward to a honeymoon already paid for, sans the bride, what begins as a two-week break manifests itself to a two-year voyage of self discovery.

One can only imagine what being stood up nearly at the alter after a 10-year relationship would do to one's own psyche. Chuck in a demotion at your work where you were hoping to plunge yourself into after getting unceremoniously dumped and you have enough ingredients for some serious soul searching. Wisner reacts by deciding to reconnect with his younger brother Kurt in Costa Rica on a "bro-moon". Their time together goes without a hitch, so they then reassess their options and decide, despite being aged in their mid-30's, to trade in their respective work cubicles and search of a more meaningful existence.

Treading softly to begin, they start their travels at the turn of the millennium by visiting countries where friends have already taken up residence, firstly in Croatia and then followed by Russia. As part of a car purchase scheme, the boys then pick up a brand new Saab in Sweden, which becomes their mode of transport for the rest of their journey through Eastern Europe. Not quite the rusted out station wagon that backpackers usually resort to, but who said backpacking can only be done in one way?!

After getting their fill of Europe, the book then moves up a couple of gears as they travel on to South East Asia, South America and then southern Africa. In all, this results in travels to 53 countries across four continents over two years, meaning that there is plenty of material through which to compile a book. Trips to Komodo Island, the Galapagos islands, propositions from inn-operators on the banks of Lake Malawi and hiking to Machu Picchu are all mixed together with the less savoury elements of travel including being mugged at knife point on the streets of Rio, watching cockfighting in Bali, and having your penis grabbed in beautiful Hoi An.

With this amount of ground covered, it also means that there is a lot that gets left out. As a result Honeymoon with My Brother ends up being a chronological collection of stories with an over-arching theme of recovering from his break-up from his fiance, rather than a linear-type travelogue. Skipping the psychologists and counsellor sessions, Wisner instead receives his help from travellers on the road who are able to teach him ethics, reinvention and chutzpah. Some of this help is good, some less good and some on their own planet with assertions such as "I don't believe in reincarnation. I know reincarnation"

Honeymoon with My Brother is also interspersed with "helpful" hints and commentary on diverse but commonly encountered subjects such as dealing with touts/hustlers, politics of the Backpacker Army, getting away from guidebooks and understanding the world through the beautiful game (soccer). These chapters are also accompanied by a number of letters/postcards back to their 99 year-old non-maternal grandmother LaRue, who takes up their world journey mapping it on behalf of the residents in her rest home.

Honeymoon with My Brother is a well written and inspiring read for those of all ages who might be contemplating trading in their conventional lifestyle for one out of a backpack, with a few extra trimmings. In order to achieve it, being stood up at the alter is optional, although definitely not recommended.

3 and a half stars out of 5

Credit: Banner photo by Harold Litwiler