Some of us long to take trips into the unknown. We wish to leave behind our material possessions, and live simpler lives. Jackie Chase did just that, for one adventure-filled month. Jackie is no stranger to travel. She's spent much of her life flitting from one place to another in search of a deeper understanding of the world's cultures. In Walking to Woot, Jackie takes the reader with her to live among the Dani people in New Guinea, Indonesia. Despite being a seasoned traveler, Jackie had her apprehensions about the potentially dangerous trip. She had good reason to: This time, she was bringing her 14 year old daughter, Katherine, with her.
Jackie recounts the month-long trip using descriptive, informative, and often reflective writing. As readers, we feel like we make every bug-infested, often uncomfortable step with her. Jackie's strong writing brings the foreign surroundings alive and brings readers closer to nature and the Dani tribe. Her writing is accompanied by dynamic photographs that documents the trip. The photographs are full of personality. These are not mere vacation snapshots: Jackie has a knack for capturing the moment and an eye for shape and color. Photos of incredible mid-action moments, the individuals they encounter, and an over-abundance of penis gourds illustrate the magnificent journey Jackie and Katherine make. Together, the words and photos weave a tale of the wilderness and the people who live among it.
Information about the Dani tribe and their traditions is included throughout the book, making it a learning experience as well as an adventure. This information comes from conversations with their guide, Julius, from the Dani people themselves, or from research done by the author. The inclusion of these knowledge bites transforms this book from a mere photo travel tale. Instead, Walking to Woot is an informative foray into a tribe barely touched by modern civilization.
The Dani tribe are described as nothing but welcoming everywhere they go. The villages they visit invite the mother and daughter to watch and participate in their celebrations, festivals, and traditions. Yet despite the overwhelming kindness that greets them, Jackie remains apprehensive about the dangers of the trip and her daughter's safety. The author's fearfulness and distrust is a stark contrast to the tribal people's open curiosity and wonder. The experience leaves Jackie and Katherine—and, by extension, the reader—marveling at how much Westerners take for granted and how little we really know.
Through learning about the Dani, Jackie and Katherine learn about themselves. This self-exploration leads to a clearer understanding of what the world has to offer and what they have to offer the world. The Dani's sense of community and family also help strengthen Jackie's relationship with her teenage daughter. For Jackie, this is just another adventure in a string of many. But for Katherine, this is an experience of a lifetime. Jackie includes an interview with her daughter years after the mother-daughter duo returned from their adventure. The interview offers an insightful glimpse at the way Katherine, as a teenager, processed the surroundings she was exposed to at the time. This conversation, as well as a few pages of Katherine's journals included in the back of the book, show what a profound impact the Dani people had on Katherine. What we see in front of us is not all there is. Walking to Woot is sure to ignite the itch to uncover the world's secrets in anyone who reads it.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review