Book Review: Wayward by Tom Gates

Tom Gates Matador book

As loyal readers of my blog know, I like travel and I like writing. But I don’t like much of the “travel blog” type of writing which dominates the scene these days. “We went to City A, did activities B-D, took these pictures, then moved on to our next destination” doesn’t do much for me. I prefer stories, and moments.

This is where “Wayward: Fetching Tales From a Year on the Road” by Tom Gates excels.

I recently returned home from a two-month trip backpacking through the Balkans (more on that, later).

I headed to my alma mater to celebrate the graduation of a few old friends. Drinking with the group, people kept coming up to me: “I really enjoyed your Snapchats!” they’d say. “That was cool, instead of just getting the highlights like on Instagram, it was like… everything.”

Which, for me, sums up what good travel writing should be. Travel isn’t just Instagram photos and passport stamps. Travel’s a lot harder than that. And what I often see, in travel blogs, is people just writing “travel’s a lot more than just passport stamps and Instagram photos,” without ever actually doing the hard work of delving into those struggles.


“Wayward,” a collection of short travel essays written by Tom Gates for Matador, addresses the human side of travel. While not all of these essays deal with struggle—lots of them are just fun—they all focus on the human experience of traveling. This is not the place to turn for recommendations about places to eat or things to do—this is a place to turn if you want to get a real, raw, and honest look into what happens to the human mind while all alone in a foreign country.

“Wayward” by Tom Gates is a short, self-published book, meaning you can have it for as little as $4.99. I got it as a birthday present, and leisurely flipped my way through it in three afternoons or so. The writing is breezy, easy, and quick.

A good stocking stuffer for the literary wanderluster in your life.

Buy it through my affiliate link to show some support to your favorite literary travel blogger 🙂

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