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Absolutely Faking ItAbsolutely Faking It by Tiana Templeman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This travel book is about people as much as places. The travellers and the people they met, in grand hotels or dusty hovels around the world, found that it isn't the uniform or the smelly t-shirt that makes the person, it is the spark of friendship that counts.

Winning the holiday of a lifetime - stays in a dozen of the Leading Hotels of the World - with economy class airfare and enough spending money for a pizza now and then made for an entertaining trip. The holiday of a lifetime was certainly that, but perhaps not in the way originally envisaged!

Torture in Turkey, missed connections, encounters with assault gun-toting soldiers, lost luggage, sudden sickness, rustbucket boats and planes, soakings... This could be the holiday from hell!

But it's also fabulous views from vast suites, exquisite service, meals to die for, unexpected friendships, lazy days lounging around the pool, private tours of incredible sites. And sights.

This is a down-to-earth look at places most of us can only dream of, whether they are the Ritz or the Peninsula, waterfalls that make Niagara look sick or ancient cities stretching across the empty Syrian sands.

I learnt a lot about places and people from this book, and it's a pleasure to have a friendly Aussie guide.

Some readers have moaned a little about the trouble Tiana takes to try to fit in. A backpacker at the Ritz. Embarrassment and uncertainty are big themes in this book, especially at the beginning. But isn't that what this book is all about? If it was some jetsetter jotting down notes on the five star hotels along the way, it wouldn't be worth reading. It would be pretentious. It would be flung out the window.

The charm of the story lies in the unexpected serendipity of it all. The grand prize falling in the laps of two people who have to count every cent along the way.

As an aside, this book came to me quite by chance, at a Canberra meetup of BookCrossers, swapping books. You can always find the BookCrossing table - it's piled high with books, and the people who might have been strangers moments before are chatting about Jane Austen - or Dan Brown - and the adventures of the books rival the narratives.

The book was bought on a flying visit to Australia by New York based Cari. I first met her at a Canberra BookCrossing meetup, and since then I've gasped at her amazing travels. She's seen more of my country than I have myself, and when she showed me around Hiroshima and I was reduced to an emotional wreck, it was her fourth time and she was keener on capturing the pink perfection of the sakura cherry blossoms. Not unmoved, just making the best use of the moment.

It was fun to see her excited over being at the top of the Empire State Building. She pulled out her phone and called her Mom. Even though she was a New Yorker born and bred, it was her first time as much as mine.

And, in a fore-echo of this book, the last time I saw Cari was last July, when she took us out to a Mets ballgame and we showed her around our hotel room. Our room at the Waldorf-Astoria.

We might have checked in clad in cargo pants, our colourful nylon bags humbling us, smuggled in Subways and refrained from ordering room service coffee, but it was still the Waldorf, snapped up in an unbelievable online deal, and we HAD to show it off!

Since finishing this book, somewhere over the Pacific on a day made fuzzy by the dateline, Cari has passed it on to BookCrossers around the world. Netherlands, US, Poland, Japan, back to Australia... Absolutely Faking it

The book's travels mirror those of the author!

Bottom line? It's not great literature, and to tell the truth I find the sort of breathless-Aussie-girl-exploring-the-world style of travel writing a teeny bit irritating, but the story itself is well worth the reading. Why? Because why is that we've all looked at the competitions for these amazing prizes and dreamed of winning it. Well, Tiana won the prize, and she has shared it with us. We could be walking through those golden doors in our sweaty shorts and torn t-shirts, and the way she tells it, we are.

Here are the photographs that go with the book, including the glorious photograph that sealed first prize, taken by the photographer husband of the writing wife: Absolutely Faking It Photographs

And here is Tiana's travel blog. Looks like she has found her niche and loving it! Every Day is a New Adventure

View all my reviews
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