ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Author Raluca Barbu presents her latest book, “American Vacation,” to a full house at the Cherry Valley Public Library on Jan. 22.

On Jan. 22, the Cherry Valley Public Library presented an author talk by an Illinois author. Raluca Barbu presented her book, read a portion of her favorite place to visit, and then opened the discussion to questions. In her own words:

“My name is Raluca Barbu, I am a writer but also a librarian. I work as an adult services programmer for the Fox River Grove Memorial Library, and in circulation for the Wauconda Area Library.

“I am originally from Romania, and my daughter and I moved here three years ago with my husband. I know love stories are always a good start to a speech so I’ll give you the short version of ours. We met in the fall of 2016 through a mutual friend. We were both recently divorced. At the time, he was working for an American company from Chicago creating a new offshore office. He was supposed to go back to the US in January of the next year. But, as we got to know each other better, by mid-October we were in love. By December, we moved in to-gether, and his four-month business trip turned into an in-definite stay in Romania.

“Soon, we started traveling back and forth to the States. He wanted to share with me all the amazing places he had visited out West. About a year later he began planning this ambitious trip for us to see his favorite places together. This is when the writer in me emerged from behind the middle-aged love bird … I said to myself, “If this trip actually happens, then I will turn it into my next book.” And it did. And that’s why I am here right now, talking to you about this specific book.

“I am a published author of four books in Romania, and being a writer has defined me for more than 25 years. Writing is my way of showing my appreciation for life. It is how I say thank you, and how I let the universe know that I notice how surprisingly generous it has been with me. I am particularly grateful when life sends my way perfect writing subjects such as this unbelievable and unexpected trip.

“Numbers sum up my book pretty impressively: a 45-day journey through the American West in the blazing summer, across 19 states, 33 national, state, and tribal parks, and seven types of natural landmarks, from 260 feet below sea level to 14,000 feet of altitude. We drove 12,000 miles and hiked 170 miles. You can imagine what kind of badass spread-sheet M. had to put together to make all of this work out on the dot.

“I have to add that at that time I was almost 40 and most of the hiking involved put my old muscles to the test, also my lungs, my endurance, my patience, and my ability to survive such an overwhelming amount of natural beauty.

“I was born and bred in Romania. Most of my experiences have occurred on Romanian soil, in a Romanian style. Therefore, everything I witnessed here, I automatically compared to what was familiar to me and then wrote it all down because I left prepared to do just that.

“I had to write this book for a handful of reasons.

“First, because never in my life had I dreamed of visiting the U.S., let alone visiting its most iconic western land-marks. This was my way of paying tribute to the visited places and for the opportunity.

“Second, a month and a half is not a regular amount of time for a trip. You just cannot cram 45 days into a conversation among friends, or into a traveler’s blog post. This amount of time accumulates so much more than the number of miles we traveled and the tourist attractions we visited. Therefore, all the geographical, social, and cultural discoveries deserved a lot more attention and space.

“Third, I had never before experienced a kind of tourism that benefits the traveler, nature, and wildlife

“Then, because it is a book without precedent in Romanian literature as no other author had traveled and written about the out west apart from big universities or metropolitan areas.

“After having finished I remembered that my graduation thesis in college was about travel journals so I guess I was destined to write one of my own.

“It took one pandemic for me to translate it and two amazing friends, Danell Waters and Christina Roemer-Goldstein, to proofread and edit it. I am so proud to know this book is out in the world both in Romanian and English.

“So, all I did was write about a distinct world, unlike the one I presumed it was, about people and the way they relate to one another, about places where nature gathered a dizzyingly amount of beauty and wilderness, about the care and respect the locals and tourists have for this heritage.

“American Vacation: 12.000 Miles Into the Wild West” is available in paperback, eBook, and eAudiobook.

For those who want to know what her favorite place to visit was, it was Mount White, because now she has experienced climbing a mountain and doesn’t have to it ever again.

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