Evan Kenward could not have chosen a better title for his first publication, “Young Wanderlust.”
This true story of the cross-country road trip Kenward took after his college graduation brims with the adventure and spontaneity that young adults crave before starting life in the real world. At 470 pages, “Young Wanderlust” may be a lengthy read, but the simple plot and few main characters make it an easy page turner.
“Young Wanderlust” takes place immediately following Kenward’s graduation from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He and two of his best friends have no concrete plans for life after college, but their desires to exercise their newfound freedom and explore the country motivate them to embark on a month-long road trip.
Starting in Massachusetts, Kenward and his friends Gill and Wallace take turns driving an old beat-up Subaru through the upper Midwest for the first part of their journey. Their first camping experience in the rainy Badlands of South Dakota ends in disaster, and the trio decides to pack up the tent and head to California. Impromptu decisions and unplanned adventures occur constantly throughout the book, creating a sense of excited uncertainty for the reader as well.
En route to San Francisco, Kenward, Gill and Wallace get the chance to develop their camping skills in Yosemite National Park. They take back roads and hiking trails that tourists tend to avoid, allowing them to experience parts of the country that are usually unseen. Kenward masterfully describes the beauty of the American landscape, displaying a pleasantly obvious passion for exploration.
After spending time in San Francisco, the trio begins driving north up the scenic California coastline when their Subaru breaks down entirely. They become stranded in the middle of nowhere with no place to go and no way home. Eventually, Gill and Wallace decide to make their way back to Massachusetts, but Kenward chooses to continue on his beloved road trip alone.
The rest of the book follows Kenward’s travels through the Pacific Northwest. He visits locations in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia thanks to the generous hospitality of complete strangers he meets along the way. He goes hiking in Oregon, biking in Vancouver and cliff jumping in Whistler, British Columbia.
Twenty-eight days later, Kenward finds himself back home in Massachusetts with a changed outlook on life and wanderlust as strong as ever.
“Young Wanderlust” is an honest diary-like account of a young adult trying to find his place in the world. Kenward does not leave out any details of his trip, including things like smoking, drinking and sexual fantasies. He expresses the real concerns of a 22-year-old that are entirely relatable for a college audience.
Kenward, however, often fails to develop his characters on a deeper and more personal level. Minor things, like physical appearance, are left out, in addition to more necessary character traits and personality descriptions. At times, this makes the book confusing, since Kenward focuses more on the details of the trip rather than the details of the characters.
While most of the book’s content is centered on the road trip, there are short passages where Kenward includes reflective and thought-provoking material that gives the story a greater depth. He also briefly touches on his liberal political and religious beliefs, providing readers with a fuller understanding of who he is.
Hopefully, a second version of the book will be printed that has been properly edited because “Young Wanderlust” contains a surprising number of errors. In many places, “then” was used instead of “than,” and the name of the famous American poet “Allen Ginsberg” was spelled as “Alan.”
Despite these few aspects that give “Young Wanderlust” somewhat of a shallow feeling, it is a sincere story of the apprehensions of the transitional stage between college and the real world. Evan Kenward took a road trip as a way to take advantage of his youth and freedom while he still could, experiencing once-in-a-lifetime events and encountering unique individuals who changed his life.
“Young Wanderlust” is an ideal read for book-loving college students with a lust for adventure and beauty, much like Evan Kenward. If anything, the book relays a strong message: Don’t rush life. It’s okay if you don’t have solid plans after college. Take a trip and see the world. You never know what you might find.