Here at Conquering the Century Club, we like to think of ourselves as intellectual, cultured people who read actual books in addition to the occasional US magazine on a plane. While listening to one of the group’s favorite at-home travel indulgences, Rick Steves’ radio podcasts, Kelly learned of a book with an intriguing concept and shared it with the rest of us.
The book was Jennifer Cox’s Around the World in 80 Dates and very quickly Kelly, Lexie and I were all reading it. 80 Dates is a memoir of Cox (a travel journalist for Lonely Planet) and her quest to find Mr. Right, wherever he might be in the world. Basically, Cox has come to the conclusion that guys in the UK suck (with apologies to my friends there, I can’t blame her too much), and using her international connections sets up 80 blind dates with the goal of finding her soul mate.
I was intrigued by the book’s concept not only because of the locations Cox visits for her dates, but also because of her approach to the search for “Mr. Right”. While I feel the urge to vomit a little bit at the mere mention of a quest to find “Mr. Right” or a “soulmate”, I happen to agree with her rationale that women spend countless years and dollars dedicated to pursuing their educational or professional goals, expecting their romantic goals to fall into place magically, and then complain about why they’re alone.
To start her quest, Cox creates a “Resume” of her relationship qualifications and a “Job Description” of her ideal soulmate, then sends these to a group of close friends located in various countries around the world and requests them to set her up with any acquaintances that might match her job description. As described in the book, the logistics side of arranging all of these dates is a sheer nightmare, and it is rather entertaining to read about Cox’s headaches in dealing with transportation and lodging, all while getting ready for a blind date. In hindsight, it probably would have been smarter to complete more of the logistics before setting off on the trip.
The book details her adventures on a six-month, 18-country voyage that (spoiler alert!) ends happily. I found the book funny and entertaining, and certainly interesting for anyone as obsessed with travel as we are. However, my fellow bloggers and I agreed that Cox’s voyage is a bit unrealistic for most actual women (I can’t take 6 months off of work and travel around the world, can you?) Cox also takes some liberties with arithmetic to reach her count of 80 dates, including as separate dates things like an afternoon of speed dating. But really, it was her quest and her soul mate, so I guess it’s acceptable to fudge the rules a little bit.
I won’t give away the ending too much and say where she finds him, but Cox does find her Mr. Right after several hilarious, awkward, mildly terrifying, and just plain awful encounters with her dates. One of the most interesting impressions the book left with me was Cox’s description of international dating habits and who makes the best date. According to Cox, Englishmen and Europeans in general are the worst daters because they immediately jump from date to marriage. On the flip side, apparently Americans are the best daters for the opposite reason. In the end though, I agree with Cox that it is a good thing for all of us to leave our comfort zone and experience something different and scary, especially for those who have not found what they are looking for at home.