My encounter with this book is a happy accident. As I was browsing through Half-Price Books, I scanned through the yoga/stretching section and laughed out loud at the title of this one – Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It. That sounded like my kind of fitness book, so I bought it and brought it home.
Weeks later, I finally got around to opening it up. A few pages in, I realized that both Half-Price Books and I had misjudged the subject matter. Dyer’s book isn’t about yoga – it is a travelogue. Dyer details a period in his life (mid-30s to 40s?) in which he was a published author, drifting around the globe, theoretically working on new books, but mostly enjoying recreational drugs and romantic escapades. The book is that, but it’s also not that.
There’s a restlessness undergirding much of the book. While Dyer is clearly enjoying himself and the people and places he encounters, he is always moving on. Likely, he observes, to wherever place his traveling companions just came from. He is spiritually fidgety, unsure of why, or how to fix it, or if he should fix it.
About halfway through the book, the travelogue turns more inward. Dyer, drunk and among friends, thinks of success and meaning:
It didn’t matter at all what one did with on’es life, I decided. As long as you had evening like this, the fact that one (I kept switchign between “one,” “you,” and “I”) had accomplished next to thing – none of that made any difference. It was better being forty than twenty,w hen one was full of fire and amibtiona nd hope. It was even better than being thirty, when those hopes that had once animated you became a goading source of torment…Once you turn forty you realize that life is there to be wasted.”
Ultimately, and these are my words, Dyer arrives at a kind of peace about why he is compelled to travel in the first place. He’s traveling to find home. Home isn’t the place he comes back to at the end, but rather a state of mind, a realization that home isn’t a particular place, or a group of people, but places and memories and people and love that exist outside of a certain plot point on a grid or time. He calls it The Zone, but I like “home” better.
Dyer’s writing is worth mentioning. He’s intellectual, but not pretentious. He works Auden and Rilke and Nietzsche into the book not to elevate himself, but to accessibly tie in ideas or feelings. His style reminds me most of Alain de Botton.
If you are a bit of a wanderer, you’ll appreciate this book. As someone who has lived on three continents and has fallen in love thousands of times with people and places and memorable evenings, I heartily recommend this one.