If you enjoy reading about the adventures, joys, and tribulations that come with extended road trips, read this book. If you or a loved one has had life-changing medical issues, read this book. If you are doing some soul searching and/or faith exploration of your own, read this book. If you are looking for some insight into whether international microfinance can be used as a vehicle to enact social change through shifting societal modalities while increasing the awareness of global insight within an emerging market, don’t read this book. “American Bread: Chronic Lyme Disease and the Tao of the Open Road,” Nick Vittas’ literary debut, is pure heart. Nick has been battling Lyme disease for 14 years, and this book provides insight into how one man copes with life-changing events. It is an intricately assembled collection of stories from his days as a punky cah-lidge kid at UMass – Amherst, his navigation through the early years of his diagnosis, and his adventures on the road when he was finally healthy enough to drive cross country twice, and through Mexico.
A book that combines travel stories and spirituality (two of my favorite topics of discussion) this well is a very hard find, but what sets Vittas apart even further is his ability to extract lessons from seemingly mundane or unfortunate happenings. Frolicking and joking with neighborhood kids in LaMadrid, Mexico. “Car trouble” in the Bay Area. Sitting in the basement studying pre-recorded NBA games (on a VCR nonetheless). These and many other situations become the vehicles for Vittas to apply the philosophies and attitudes he cultivates, through mediation and readings, as his acceptance of his condition evolves. His painstaking attention to detail allows the reader to truly feel his frustration with Lyme disease and occasional desire to stomp his feet and scream, “Enough!,” to focus on their own breathing while he describes his first meditation, and to curse that damn Oakland weather. His description of the constant battle of being present in the moment versus focusing / worrying about some hopeful event somewhere in the future is also something everyone can relate to on some level.
While this book has many soulful, honest moments, the travelogues have the ability to make anyone’s feet itchy. Lobo and the patron saint of recklessness combine their efforts to create some seriously insane situations which Vittas sounds very grateful (in hindsight) to have been present for. The joy he finds in traveling, and the companionship of his buddy cannot be contained, and the reader can’t help but feel the love, too. Costa, Linda, Belli, and a cast of others also appear throughout the book adding color to Vittas and Lobo’s adventures across the US and Mexico. As the book progresses, and rough early days of his diagnosis are explained, even the grumpiest reader’s spirits are lifted as they see how far the author has come physically.
This book is versatile and is a must read for anyone who reads. It will leave you full of wanderlust. It will make you laugh. It will make you focus on your breath. It provides food for spiritual thought. It is simply a well written book by a dude who has been through a lot, and shares his experiences in a clear and honest way.
“American Bread: Chronic Lyme Disease and the Tao of the Open Road” is available on Amazon. Click on the image of the book to the left for more information.