Hitchhiker on the Road: A Review of “Descending the Cairo Side”
by Lisa Niver Rajna
Danny White is a young man who falls off the continent of Europe into Morocco, becoming a true vagabond. He begins his story in Descending the Cairo Side, “I didn’t know how long the journey would take, what exactly my route would be, or with whom I might share the adventure. I took no guide books; any expectations obtained from advance research would only hinder the spontaneous nature of the experience.” His meandering tour introduces him to culture and memorable places including campsites, sweaty bus rides, new lovers and new friends.
Kit Herring’s first novel inspired me to take a camel safari in Merzouga, Morocco and will inspire the reader to think about travel, to get out and travel and to read more about travel and political situations.
Herring’s work reminds the reader of Paul Theroux’s books where the traveler’s senses are inspired by lush surroundings. When he writes: “The shouts of children and touts, calls from the muezzins in the mosques, throbbing antique motors, and a complete din of human activity all assaulted my ears. I was completely entranced…” I wanted to be in that scene. While reading, I had to remind myself the story was not yet a movie.
Herring skillfully shows us situations and travelers who make a large range of choices and have run-ins with locals, police and other nefarious characters. Danny White’s conclusion that “the law does not care to distinguish intentions from actions, and we are judged not by how we see ourselves, but rather by what effects our actions have on others,” could be about the law in any country and how we fit into our own society or another we are visiting in our travels.
Descending the Cairo Side grapples with choices we all must make whether we stay at home or choose to travel. And whom we choose to love. What actions are worthy of our time and attention? As a society, we often feel constrained to make the correct choices without landmarks for what is right and wrong. At a time when so many people spend their time in online communities with no human contact, it is refreshing to read about characters boldly setting out to discover new territory in far away lands. In the end, Herring tells us more about who we are and where we started from, than about the new lines we draw on our map.
While traveling we learn about ourselves and while he says, “so never mind the insecurities and fear. Sometimes trusting strangers is the best option of all,” most travelers really learn to trust themselves. I relate so well when he says, “Who can say what happens when we interrupt our lives with new choices and take a sudden detour?” Travel allows us the opportunity not only to explore new places but new parts of ourselves, to fully become the person we are meant to be.