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Minxminnie

Take Me With You -The basic concept

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I'm only a few chapters in. I'm enjoying it a lot, because I love travel writing (a good way to see the world on the cheap!) and because I like the narrative voice. He sounds lke a thoughtful bloke who has a lot of empathy for the people he encounters and who really thinks about why he is travelling.

But I have a bit of a problem with the central concept of the book. It seems patronising to me. How would you feel if you were, say, a farmer in rural Scotland or a factory worker in a congested city, and you got chatting to a rich American tourist, then six months later he sent you an invite to spend a month with him? I'd feel insulted and partonised, no matter how unlikely I was to be able to afford the trip. He just assumes that a month in America with him is the best thing that can happen to anyone who is poor or lives in what, to him, is an underdeveloped area.
He's not even offering to change someone's life or prospects - just to show them what they could have been born into. That could be cruel.

I think he means it with the best of intentions, but it seems naive to me - the sort of thing that would seem like a good idea when you are a young traveller.

What does anyone else think? I will finish the book, so please don't give away the ending - he might even come to this realisation himself!

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But I have a bit of a problem with the central concept of the book. It seems patronising to me. How would you feel if you were, say, a farmer in rural Scotland or a factory worker in a congested city...

I think the difference is in culture, the examples that you use exist within a society where it is at least plausible that they will be able to visit another country if they want to. Newsham is meeting people that have never left their own villages and towns. People that will never get an opportunity to travel or haven't even considered it as a possibility.

 

I was quite satisfied by his explanation near the beginning of the book, when some of his friends raised the same objections.

 

Putting issues of culture aside, if I were offered a chance to travel America free for a month, knowing that I would have to go back to my own life I would jump at the chance just for the experience. If it ended up ruining my life afterwards I'd live with it. I would rather suffer a life fully lived than a life half lived wondering what might have been...

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I agree with Krey20, I would jump at the chance of experiencing another culture for a month for free. I would be quite suspicious though. At one point Newsham complains that he's hardly met any women on his travels, but from a who-to-invite point of view, he could never make the offer to a woman, it would be too dodgy.

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I love the opportunity to go and visit another culture for a month, although I could think of far more enlightening places I'd like to visit the San Fransisco.

I think if a stranger offered me this opporutnity I would be far too suspicious to take them up on the offer, although this is probably due to the fact that in Britain we are often suspicious of people who do a lot for others.

Having visited Vietnam, where many of the people you come into contact with day to day, I would say that many of these people would relish the idea of visiting America or Britain as they often hold the place in great esteem.

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I am playing devil's advocate a bit here. I also think that most of the people he meets would snap his hand off for the offer, and I have no doubt that he means well. I also accepted the explanation he gave at the start to his sceptical friends.

Still, though, something about it doesn't sit well with me. There's an arrogance about it, to assume that a trip to America, with him, is so valuable that it can be bestowed upon anyone chosen at random, so long as they are from a developing country.

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There's an arrogance about it, to assume that a trip to America, with him, is so valuable that it can be bestowed upon anyone chosen at random, so long as they are from a developing country.

I think that's Americans all over. Many of them can't see beyond their borders and believe that the rest of the world should be like them and indeed want to be like them. In the aftermath of 9/11, it seemed like they couldn't understand why anyone would attack them and they still seem to think that if only the Muslim fundamentalists would see sense, i.e. see what they're missing, everything would be OK. I'm not saying that Newsham is especially like this, just that it's a cultural thing.

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I am playing devil's advocate a bit here. I also think that most of the people he meets would snap his hand off for the offer, and I have no doubt that he means well. I also accepted the explanation he gave at the start to his sceptical friends.

Still, though, something about it doesn't sit well with me. There's an arrogance about it, to assume that a trip to America, with him, is so valuable that it can be bestowed upon anyone chosen at random, so long as they are from a developing country.

My turn to play Devil's advocate...

 

Would we still think it was arrogant if the author was British and offering a month in London?

 

Don't get me wrong I'm a very cynical person, but I just love the "karmic" feel of the concept. And at the end of the day, it's his concept and he's funding it personally so why shouldn't he be the one to judge who gets the opportunity. I've had similar feelings about the concept but keep forcing them away. I want to believe it's an idea motivated by altruism not arrogance or through a sense of pity.

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My turn to play Devil's advocate...

 

Would we still think it was arrogant if the author was British and offering a month in London?

 

 

Yes, I would! It's really not an American thing with me - though I think they are more guilty of that cultural imperialism thing than the Brits or other nations. I like my home town, and I think Scotland is one of the best places I've seen on earth, but I wouldn't think I was doing someone in India or Africa a huge favour by inviting them to spend a month travelling round with me. If it was someone I had really got to know, and who I knew really wanted to see Scotland, I might be tempted, but just not in the way it's being done. (I'd be scared that the person wouldn't fancy a month with me, never mind anything else!)

 

But as I keep saying, I'm enjoying the book and I think he is acting out of the best of intentions.

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I think when you read the end, when he describes picking a person, how hard he had to work to get the person to him and then the events that occurred on that visit it changes the way you look at the concept.

It seems to me that he made a very good friend in the person and that the picked person benefitted in numerous ways whilst on the visit

 

and I don't just mean the new eye and teeth, but the people he met, the things he got to do, and the warm reception that he was given. Also the way that he was able to change his families future after the visit

 

Brad Newsham seems like a lovely caring man, although until this point in the book I was always wary of his motives.

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It seems to me that he made a very good friend in the person and that the picked person benefitted in numerous ways whilst on the visit

 

I must admit I did wonder what would've happened if he'd picked one of the other people instead...

 

 

He did seem to spend a lot of time with Tony and maybe that's why he picked him. It might have been more interesting if he'd picked the ear-cleaner guy instead ;)

 

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I thought that at the beginning of the book, too. And I'm still not completely convinced what to think about the concept (although I liked the book in general). A lot of his friends (presumably American, I guess) had warned him about the same things Minxminnie brought up. And I have invited people I met during travels to come and visit me when they were in my area (or just if they'd like to see me again) - and some have even taken me up on that invitation ;), but I think that's a completely different thing. I don't pay for their stay then, I don't take them through the whole country. They arrive by themselves, stay at my house for a couple of days, get fed, I might take them somewhere interesting in the area, and then they leave again. I don't pay for their flight, a doctor's appointment or anything like that. So - not exactly the same thing.

 

I just know, I wouldn't do that. I would rather give the money to someone to better his (or her) life. Actually, I am doing that. My husband and I, we have had sponsor children for years, we probably paid more for them over the years than Mr. Newsham did for this one trip. But, with this money they had an education, enough food for their family etc. and could build themselves a future in their country. I know quite a few people who do that (and I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't more people here who did it, as well) and none of them has written a book about it. Of course, it's not as entertaining since none of us has gone to all those countries and invited one of those sponsor children home.

 

Anyway, there is a website about Brad Newsham which is quite interesting.

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Brad Newsome's website has not been updated with news of Tony since 2006.

 

Here is what he posted then:

TONY: Also, many of you frequently inquire about my rice farmer friend Tony from the Philippines. Tony has had his ups and downs in life, both before his trip to America (2001) and since. Earlier this summer he called in distress - overnight an arsonist had destroyed the row of shops near Tony's home, shops that belonged to a man to whom Tony had loaned a significant amount of money. Then, just a few days ago, Tony called (I cringed mentally: "Oh no, what now?") to tell me that his loan had been repaid in full. He'd taken the money and bought a small house near the rice field he bought a couple of years ago, down in the lowlands, two and a half hours from his mountain home. Now while Tony is away from his family (he often goes down to the new land to farm and stays for four or five days at a stretch) he has a roof to sleep under. So, Tony's fine. Life rolls on. Thanks for asking.

 

I do find it interesting that, five years after Tony's trip to America, five years after his and my fifteen minutes of fame, we're both back to our pre-trip lives. Tony's doing more rice farming than trek-guiding these days (there are still not many tourists visiting Banaue). And I am again a cab driver with half a manuscript tucked under the front seat. And that feels good.

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Well Tony's story is not that of Brad Newsome and I get the impression that he would rather people were more interested in him that in some bloke who was lucky enough to have been picked to experience the USA.

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Still, though, something about it doesn't sit well with me. There's an arrogance about it, to assume that a trip to America, with him, is so valuable that it can be bestowed upon anyone chosen at random, so long as they are from a developing country.

 

I think that's Americans all over. Many of them can't see beyond their borders and believe that the rest of the world should be like them and indeed want to be like them. In the aftermath of 9/11, it seemed like they couldn't understand why anyone would attack them and they still seem to think that if only the Muslim fundamentalists would see sense, i.e. see what they're missing, everything would be OK. I'm not saying that Newsham is especially like this, just that it's a cultural thing.

 

Surfing last night, I came across the discussion of this book and was intrigued enough to visit the guy's website, having never heard of him before. The concept seemed kind of cool to me, if maybe goofy to some - after all, there are already many international foundations trying to make a difference in the lives of people from developing nations. Tony had gone the extra nine yards to show him around, and he thought it would be nice to return the favor. And Brad doesn't come across as rich to me except by comparison to other countries, having taken a series of not terribly lucrative jobs and lived frugally just so he could travel the world on a shoestring. I might question his motives if offered the trip or think him a bit mad, but then I'm a bit mad myself after all...hopefully in a good way. Oh, and another poster said they wouldn't pick San Francisco - it is Brad's home, but he did drive all over the country with Tony too - in a donated taxi, it seems.

 

As a grateful (though not blind or jingoistic) American, I took exception to Jen's comment. When 9/11 hit, I was horrified and saddened, but not exactly surprised. To me, most Americans were naive to think we were somehow exempt from the carnage that has been visited upon average citizens by terrorists all across the globe. I could see why some people hated "us" (read: our government, not necessarily individual Americans) but mostly kept my comments to myself for fear of being judged a traitor. It got worse when Bush forged ahead with his bootless war in Iraq and I refused to wave the patriotic flag and eschew French fries along with others in my little conservative town. I just went underground.

 

Anyway, if you continue reading Brad's website, he continues the thread in Backpack Nation, though the project seems to have foundered for lack of organisation - the concept of backpack ambassadors taking funds to persons, villages or projects in developing nations. Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea) has been far luckier...lost after a failed attempt on the summit of K2, he stumbled into a mountain village and has since devoted his life to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It helps to have friends and supporters willing to help form non-profit foundations and such.

 

MM, I don't see it as arrogance exactly (though each of us can be a bit arrogant/passionate/self-righteous? in his/her own way at times). An altruistic American can be like a big Newfoundland dog, jumping all over you, eager to please, trying to help and falling over all four feet in the process...while the bogus altruist (who is usually wealthy, though certainly not all wealthy Americans are like this) just does it for the personal glory and the tax break.

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An altruistic American can be like a big Newfoundland dog, jumping all over you, eager to please, trying to help and falling over all four feet in the process...while the bogus altruist (who is usually wealthy, though certainly not all wealthy Americans are like this) just does it for the personal glory and the tax break.
I like that comparison, I know a lot of Americans, some of them very nice, some nice, some not so nice, so just your ordinary kind of people.

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