Journeys are always important for us, even the shortest ones. That’s one of the most important lessons we might learn in life, and Paola de Santiago Haas with her No Road, Just Us, reminds us not to forget it. That lesson she was able to learn quite soon, it seems, during her life spent travelling all around the world for study, work and pleasure. In this charming compilation of short stories, most of them strictly biographical, we follow Paola during her travels, starting from Mexico, her birthplace.
The chapters devoted to Mexico are probably the most interesting because they offer a unique point of view on that country. It’s the view of a woman who was born there but, because of her choices, often happened to travel inside Mexico as tourist. Not just an ordinary traveller, however…
but one that has all the possibilities to understand, and to love, most of what she happens to see. In the last chapter she defines herself as a Martian, just as her schoolmates used to call her as a child, and in some way it may be true; thanks to her very personal point of view on the world.
Curiosity, a positive attitude and the capability of being adaptable are essential to every traveller, and Paola de Santiago Haas appears to have them all. It is clearly shown in every line of her book. Perhaps, she developed these important qualities through her travels throughout the continents. Or maybe she developed them though her frequent travels from Mexico to Italy, where she studied design.
After all, life itself is a great journey, for life, as a journey, requires for you to pass through different steps, growing little by little with every experience, learning different things and (hopefully) opening your mind.
And yet, “first a distinction must be made between travelling and journeying. Travelling is going from one place to another […] Journeying, differently, transcends enjoyment. It has to do with living […] Journeying is a need.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more with de Santiago Haas. My personal journeys’ notebooks are full of meditations about existence along with memories and descriptions of the places I was visiting that inspired those very notes. De Santiago Haas, on the contrary, builds up her chapters as a unique mix of Life and stories, to the extent that in more than one occasion it’s hard to understand where reality ends and literature begins.
Paola began writing down notes about her journeys because they were destined to her friends and family. In time, she came to understand another great lesson: “thinking about writing about a journey changed the quality of the journey itself, as I suddenly felt I was no longer travelling alone”. In a way, this is a limit of her book, as some episodes are a little too refined to feel truly authentic. On the other hand, this gives a mysterious vibe to more familiar travel destinations, such as Paris or Greece.
All in all, No Road, Just Us is an enchanting book, as it entertains with fine humour and suggestive meditations about life and other stories.