Stephen Banick,
Accidental Enlightenment: The Extraordinary Travels of a Modern-Day Gulliver
(Synergy, 2007)

Have you ever wanted to explore the world beyond your town, state or country? If dreams of getting stamps in your passport have eluded you because life keeps getting in the way, perhaps Stephen Banick can give you the mental kick in the rear that you need to get motivated and get moving. In his book, Accidental Enlightenment: The Extraordinary Travels of a Modern-Day Gulliver, Banick first discusses various personalities he has run across during his travels. He then writes about certain exotic locales he has visited and what he experienced. Toward the end of the book, he talks about the Gulliver Project.

Stephen's descriptions about the various personalities of the world can be rather amusing. One might wonder just how he managed to keep such detailed journals during his travels that he is able to quote whole conversations he had years ago. He explains in the beginning of the book that he uses "faction" -- essentially, the stories are true, but a few liberties are taken here or there.

Throughout the book, Stephen doles out "words of wisdom." His beliefs lean more toward Buddhist doctrine (or at least that is the impression I got). But he attempts to make the messages universal. Sometimes it works better than others. For example, early on in the book, he states "There is always a way out; we are not victims of anyone. ... It is you who chose not to follow your heart." This applies to those folks who want to travel, but do not make the effort. This also applies to those who want to start their own business, but won't. It applies to anyone who holds back instead of taking whatever leap they need to move forward with their lives. Some quotes won't reach all readers who will not see the statements as "deep" but rather "new-age mumbo-jumbo." "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience -- we are spiritual beings having a human experience" is a good example.

To slightly paraphrase some more pearls of wisdom, Stephen believes we not only create our own realities, we create our own obstacles. We use these challenges as a way of prodding ourselves to grow in some form or fashion. He talks about how during his travels (but really applicable in any part of life) he frequently has flashes of insight. You should trust these moments of inspiration and act on them, he prods. Some people would call this gut feel or instinct.

As an aside, my favorite quote from the book is: "Statistics are like bikinis: What they reveal is suggestive; What they conceal is vital." Stephen has a sense of humor.

To quote the promotional material (which is more succinct than the book and much better at synthesizing the details for a review blurb), "The Gulliver Project was designed by Banick to give people hope, connect peoples' innate talents and virtues with the tremendous tools and resources that can enrich them and prompt them to empower themselves. Banick encourages personal growth and self-empowerment through 'Trans-cultural Connection,' which helps develop awareness, knowledge and compassion for people around the world."

Banick is definitely qualified to write a travel log. He has been to more than 30 countries on six continents. He is not a professional traveler or one of those people who travels, then writes for a living. He has made his money as an industrial engineer, an English teacher and a small business owner, to name a few professions. He lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and heads the Gulliver Project, which was the catalyst for this book.

So, should I recommend Accidental Enlightenment to Rambles.NET readers? I do not think this book is going to connect with everyone. Not everyone likes to read a travel log (which is arguably what most of this book is about). Not everyone agrees with Stephen's version of spirituality and spiritual growth. I personally like the idea that Stephen espouses that folks need to connect with the rest of the world, the "great tapestry of Humankind." But not everyone is a traveler. Some folks are couch potatoes. They have no desire to see the world (except maybe through their televisions), much less the state next to their own. They are entitled to their existence of choice, just like Stephen is entitled to his. If you are of the couch potato persuasion, skip this book. If you have an itch to explore world cultures, but need a push to get moving, this might be a good start. If you like a good travel journal (embellishments and all), I would also recommend Stephen's book. What does your insight say? "Flash" yourself. Are you a Gulliver or not?

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Wil Owen

29 March 2008

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