Title: The Jet Project
Author: Sam Pease
Publisher: Penguin Random House New Zealand
4/5 stars
Reviewed by: THOMAS STEVENSON

 

What do you want to do after you’ve left school? Visit exotic islands and swim in tropical seas? Tour around Europe and eat every ice cream flavour known to humankind? Climb giant dunes in the Sahara Desert? Put aside a year to study… in France?

Author Sam Pease did all those things and tons more with her son, Jet. The book calls it “a 600-day ed-venture,” or in other words, the best mother-and-son trip ever! For nearly two years, the pair of them travelled all over the world on a budget. Not only did they have a heck of a lot of fun, they learned languages, immersed themselves in new cultures and perfected the art of slow travel. That means exploring at a relaxed pace, not dashing between tourist spots like an electrocuted weasel.

Does your mother try to be cool by cracking jokes only she finds funny? Well, Sam is an actual cool mum with a very punchy, youthful style to her writing. She even uses hashtags! (#screamcat)

I’d like to say she’s clearly a seasoned travel writer, but ‘seasoned’ would imply overtones of age, which just aren’t in here. All the best, worst and averagest parts of her two-year adventure with Jet are recorded in bubbly prose and fantastic photos.

Jet himself is kind of a second author, for the book contains hilarious and super cute excerpts from his diary. He was 10 years old when the duo set off from Auckland on their great voyage, a mathematical prodigy but a reluctant writer. During the adventure he ended up studying in France, despite knowing only five words of French!

His insights are probably my favourite part of The Jet Project (I’m starting to suspect Sam named him with such a book in mind). Here are a few quotes to give you an idea…

In the National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas:
“There is a good reason there’s a big sign saying no lighters and flammable items allowed… there are real nukes everywhere and no one wants to go boom.”

In a “fancy resort:”
“I ordered a heart-shaped pancake to be made. I knew she’d love it but I didn’t know she’d have a love explosion. Cringe.”

“My French accent is better when I have Maltesers in my mouth.”

“My mum is obsessed with baby wipes, fields of flowers and making rude words out of place names.”

 

Of course, there are bound to be less than ideal experiences when you’re abroad with a youngster. Sam describes their alarm at how easy it was for Jet to borrow a gun in Miami, and the awkwardness of having to explain the premise of Amsterdam’s red-light district. If you don’t know what that is, ask your parents!

They even dished out awards, such as Most Pretentious Museum (Rose Center for Earth and Space) and Most Disappointing Airline (Air New Zealand waaaaaah). However, The Jet Project isn’t just a heart-warming “Look what we’ve been up to” story. It’s also a practical guide. Yes, it’s aimed at parents travelling with their kids, but there’s plenty in here for anybody interested in travel.

Sam offers loads of tips for travelling and taking care of young ones on a budget. She covers everything from saving for a trip to navigating public transport and taking flawless selfies. Obviously, if you don’t plan on travelling with kids, it going to be easier. You’ll probably be more interested in the sections on street style, packing light and asking where the toilet is in six different languages. That’s just a taster – there’s so much info!

How to sum up? Well, this is by far the most adorable travel book I’ve ever picked up. Move over, Bill Bryson. It’s also the most honest guide I’ve come across, with the possible exception of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (That’s non-fiction, right?)

Finally, I guess The Jet Project should be seen as something to inspire those of us who have thought about running away and seeing the wide world. If you really want it, you can do it. Even on a budget. After all, we have a saying here in Aotearoa: #yolo.

 

The Jet Project is available from Amazon, Book Depository and everywhere awesome books are sold. Sam Pease is a writer based in Auckland; her other works include Eat Less Crap Lose That Fat and Date Like A Dude.

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