Tales of A Female Nomad

Tales of A Female Nomad

Living at Large in the World

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
Rate this:
There's more than one way to do life. In a small cemetery deep in the jungle of Borneo, two men climb into a freshly dug hole and retrieve the bones of a long-dead grandmother. An American guest joins the procession from the cemetery to the elaborately decorated village square for a traditional ceremony that will properly send Grandma off on her journey to the next world. In years past, a man from a neighboring tribe was sacrificed whenever this ceremony was performed. Today, in a new era, the neighboring tribe has been invited to participate in the festivities, and the only victim is a cow. A few years earlier the American guest, Rita Golden Gelman, a children's book author and the mother of two grown children, was living in a comfortable suburban home, dining in elegant restaurants, and attending glamorous parties. Rita only dreamed of traveling to exotic places and experiencing other cultures. When her marriage failed, she decided to live her dream. She sold all her possessions and, at the age of forty-eight, took off to see the world. Fifteen years later, she's still without a permanent home. Rita has lived in Mexico and the Galapagos Islands, Bali and New Guinea, Israel, Nicaragua, Thailand, and New Zealand. And she's still moving. Although she's not athletically gifted or independently wealthy, Rita has climbed mountains, paddled up rivers, and subsisted for a year on what many people spend in a few months. In Tales of a Female Nomad, Rita shares how she, an ordinary woman, has created a spectacular life, filled with interesting people, enlightening experiences, and fascinating adventures. Determined to understand each local culture she visits, Rita stays not in hotels but with the natives on sleeping platforms or in huts, cement block houses, mountain cabins, or small bungalows. She even spent four years at a palace in Bali, complete with a prince. She's observed orangutans in the rain forests of Borneo, served as an unofficial tour guide in the Galapagos, taught herself the Indonesian language, and forged many lasting cross-cultural friendships. And the food -- Rita has learned to cook exotic cuisine of all kinds, from elaborate Thai dishes to Nicaragua's staple, gallo pinto. In addition to her tales of adventure, Rita shares the nitty-gritty details of how she manages to travel on scant funds and live without modern conveniences. To participate actively in the daily life of the communities she visits, she has learned to trust strangers to help her find places to stay and to teach her the local ways. The payoff is that she gains their trust as well. Dynamic, vivacious, and a marvelous weaver of tales, Rita celebrates her glorious transformation from an unfulfilled suburbanite to a liberated and incredibly self-assured woman of the world. More than a travel memoir, Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of a woman's rebirth. Rita Golden Gelman's real-life tale proves beyond a doubt that anyone can cast away the burdens of conventional life at any age and continue -- or begin -- to thrive.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2001.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780609606421
Branch Call Number: 910/.4/Gel 6173mb 1
Characteristics: vii, 311 p.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Apr 01, 2013

I loved the description of the locations and the fantasy of leaving everything to travel. For someone with a masters in anthropology, it is a shame she did not use it to provide more insights.

Jul 22, 2012

One of the many "coming of age" stories of women who decide, usually after a divorce, to live their own lives at last: in this case through travel that tries to immerse the traveler into the lives of ordinary people in the countries visited.

Nov 30, 2011

interesting life, and a good read, but at times I had to push myself to finish sections.

Jul 04, 2011

I had great hopes for this book as my partner had read it and liked it very much indeed. However, I was less moved.
I love that a 48 year old woman left a very very comfortable life in LA and turned her life upside down. But I don't think the book does justice to the event.
Instead of the self-reflective book I was expecting, I found her book to be like a series of postcards from a traveler: I ate such & such exotic food at such and such exotic place with exotic dark-skinned people who spoke foreign languages.
From a sociological perspective, her patterns sometimes disturbed me. Why was she so intent to go to "Third World" countries? Why was she constantly wanting to be the white person surrounded by people of color? Is it because she wanted to stand out? Because she wanted to be noticed (and often pampered?)? It certainly wasn't because she wanted to help. Other than casually teaching English to some of the children & adults, in over a decade of traveling, she never made any serious efforts to help the people she visited. Oops, I forgot, she did buy clothes from thrift stores on her trips back to the US and then would hand them out when she returned to her adventures. But she made no efforts to help the people she visited obtain a school or a health clinic, or help them figure out other ways to survive in places where they were often desperately poor. She observed and enjoyed them for months at a time but then blithely went on to the next destination.
Although she has a Masters degree in anthropology, she didn't do field work during her years of traveling. She wasn't studying cultures, she was just dabbling in them. Even while insisting she wasn't doing anthropological work, she would still run for cover under the academic anthropologist credo to "observe but not change". This allowed her, in her mind, the justification to do nothing while watching her landlord beat up her landlady. This allowed her to do nothing when she saw people die of preventable illnesses. This allowed her to accept rampant sexism because she was treated well, even sometimes royally, while the men who treated her that way were dismissive of their own wives and wouldn't even allow them to dine with their husbands. Instead the author glories in her own privileges and becomes nearly orgasmic at being allowed to help cook dinner with the women of the village.
I'm sorry to say I thought the book was mostly superficial. I was very disappointed.


Add a Summary

Nov 30, 2011

An older woman's search for her true self through her travel adventures.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top