Every now and then a travelogue comes along that not only takes you with the writer to a far away place, but also gives you reason to laugh. Jane Christmasís Incontinent on the Continent is the real-life and often humorous story of the author as she travels with her mother on an Italian vacation. Like many others, Christmas romanticizes Italy, its people, its food, and its countryside. She has wanted to visit for some time, but when she does, she decides to go off-season, without the crowds and long lines of tourists that flock to the region. She does not go alone, however. Her mother, an older woman needing wheelchair and walker accessibility, accompanies her. Her mother also suffers from incontinence (hence the title) and a number of medical ailments that require she take medication. The adventures the two women experience testify equally to the power of love among family and the tumultuous, often comedic, nature of unscripted travel and happenstance.
Incontinent on the Continent is reader and traveler delight. It highlights being both a mother and daughter, reflecting on the experience of a woman raising children who suddenly realizes that all the nurturing and handholding she did with her kids must now be done with her mother, who in her childhood was her rock. Watching parents day by day makes it difficult to see how they age. When it hits you that they are no longer young and that you are now in their middle-aged shoes, the experience can be startling. Christmas realizes it on her Italian vacation, and it throws her off balance, as it would for any child.
From a travelerís perspective, Christmasís transformation also represents the costs and rewards of traveling with older adults and adults with special needs. Throughout the book, Christmas must fend and advocate for her mother, finding accessible entrances and pathways so her mother could enjoy the romantic Italy that Christmas had always dreamed about. Traveling with someone with special needs also altered the way she had to think about exploration. With her motherís condition, it certainly would not be on foot. Thus, in one chapter, Christmas recounts the numerous hours she spends driving around the Italian coast and the humorous effect it has on her bottom.
The book is also a testament to good travel. You learn that while traveling on a whim is good for the soul, it does require some investments like learning a new language if you are traveling abroad, taking clothes that adapt for all seasons (if you will not be an area where you can easily buy new clothes), and having a contingency plan of activities if you feel must always entertain your companion or be entertained. When traveling with persons with disabilities, even more preparation is required.
Incontinent on the Continent is a great travelogue that makes you laugh as well as consider some of the finer points of travel. Read it while youíre on vacation or just before a trip. Like similar published diaries, like Julie & Julia and Under the Tuscan Sun, Incontinent on the Continent is so good that it seems ripe for film. Christmas recounts her travel adventures so vividly and with such down-to-earth experience that you feel connected to her and her mother from page 1. It is truly a pleasure to read.
* A complimentary copy of the book was provided by the publisher.