Big Backpack – Little World by Donna Morang is a travel memoir that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and gives you a good shake! From start to finish, it’s energetic, fascinating and enjoyable. You’re swept along with the author, who became an EFL teacher in her fifties at the suggestion of her daughters, from country to country, from good experience to bad experience and back again. You get to see all aspects of life in each place she visits. The author taught in many countries including Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Colombia. Other countries she applied to work in wouldn’t accept her for various reasons, such as the Sudan, where she was considered too old to teach!
The author has an amazing eye for details. She depicts the colours, the smells, the heat or cold of the place. She makes friends with people from all walks of life – pink-haired punks, prostitutes, young people, drug barons, old people. As she says: “It is just not in my nature to distrust people”. She takes her companions at face value and wins a lot of respect for this. She also remarks that “once I decide to do something, I usually jump in and give it one hundred percent”. She has done this with both her teaching and her writing. I thought I’d lived a fairly interesting life as an expat several times over, but Donna’s wide and varied experiences overshadow most people’s, I think. This is a book you can’t book down. It’s well laid out with nice illustrations. It’s definitely worth a read.