Chasing Zorba

A Journey of Self-Discovery in a VW Bus

Non-Fiction - Travel
288 Pages
Reviewed on 01/09/2022
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Author Biography

Jerry Steimel was born in Louisville, Kentucky where he spent his youth as well as his undergraduate college years at the University of Louisville. The author departed Louisville in 1974 to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago where he received his Masters in Social Work. He had a forty-five year career in youth work working in a variety of settings serving disadvantaged youth. These included the court system of Chicago, a residential program in Maine, an outdoor adventure program in Massachusetts and he was Director of a shelter for runaway teens in the Boston area. The final years of his career he worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston as Executive Vice-President of Operations. He is married and has two daughters. Now retired, he lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts when he is not wandering the country in his 1973 VW bus.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

Chasing Zorba: A Journey of Self-Discovery in a VW Bus, by Jerry Steimel, is an intriguing travelogue of introspection and fulfilling a lifelong dream. The Vietnam War is a powder keg in America, along with other social issues, and the author has just finished college. It's 1972, and he launches into a road trip in his 1966 Volkswagon Beetle, aka Zorba, so named because he was inspired philosophically by the literary figure to live in the moment and be fearless. He has the country spread out before him and hopes for true adventure, traveling country roads, leaving Kentucky behind for better insight into who he is and who he might become. California is his goal and it's a long way off. But the journey was over after a VW malfunction and an unfruitful 30-day stay in Florida. He had to return home and pack away his dream in favor of a social work career and a family life. Skip ahead forty-five years and he picked up his dream again in 2017, finding a VW bus and heading out.

Steimel's writing is engaging and friendly, pulling readers into the scenes right away, offering insightful observations during the author's road trip. Does he have the same mindset? He's older now; retired. Is he wiser? Is he still idealistic? Has the country changed over the years? I like the bird's-eye-view you get of the author's life, and the various cultures around America, his discoveries, disappointments, and memories. His personal anecdotes give you a chance to get inside the author's skin and experience things the way he did, and the images are a nice addition. This is an insightful slice-of-life memoir that holds a mirror up to America's politics, culture, people, and the author himself. Steimel's sense of humor is a constant thread that runs through the narrative. You will experience the ups with the downs, and, being a former social worker, I felt a sort of connection with the author. By the time you reach the end of Chasing Zorba by Jerry Steimel, you may feel as though you've just finished "The Great American Novel" in non-fiction form.