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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
When I was offered the opportunity to read and review this memoir by Martin Frumkin, I was none too sure that a hippie’s journal about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n' roll as he searched for a higher consciousness was my cup of java. None of those items ranked highly amongst my interests. But I cracked up when I read the author’s opening note stating that in 1976, Malaysia stamped the passports of Suspected Hippies In Transit with the acronym S.H.I.T. Frumkin hooked me with humor! I began reading and didn’t want to stop. What Frumkin shares in sometimes hilarious down-to-earth narration, brilliant heartfelt descriptions, and so many wonderful photos is both fascinating and enlightening. Between plenty of chillum and copious amounts of chai en route along the international hippie trail through India, Nepal, Burma, Afghanistan, and more, Frumkin trekked with a variety of companions and guides, recording his observations as often as time and health allowed. Frequent vomiting and dysentery weakened him physically, but mentally he was more alive than ever as he took in the wonders of the topography and the contrasting cultures between the cities and the mountains.
When I was recently stuck in rush hour traffic for 2 hours, my mind wandered to the peace and awe Frumkin experienced as he climbed “to the summit of a ten-thousand-foot “foothill” in Nepal and witnessed the beautiful “sight that astonishes and induces men to pause and become religious—the sight that gives rise to exclaim, “Nepal is truly God’s gift to the world.” How very different and more enticing was that world from the one I was now viewing through my car window! No wonder Frumkin advises readers early in his memoir to “get off your ass and smartphone and try it!” As limited as my travels have been, one thing I’ve concluded is that the only way to get to know a country and its people is by being there. No amount of watching TV documentaries or surfing Google Earth can fire up your emotions and imprint memories like first-hand experience. But when we can’t follow Frumkin’s “unsolicited advice” above, a superb book like Suspected Hippies in Transit is a recommended alternative.
Frumkin’s musings entertain. His photos fill us with the desire to see all he saw. His reflections and conclusions on Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Zen, and religions in general, are enlightening. His collection of sayings that open the book, like “The superior man blames himself; the inferior man blames others” (Confucius) and so many other aspects of Frumkin’s memoir prompt us to set current world chaos aside and take time to reflect on just how lucky many of us are. This is definitely one of the best travel journal memoirs I’ve had the pleasure and honor to recommend.