Review: “Sea of the Unknown” by Jay Swanson (2020)

This is my wife’s fault.

Before she and I started dating in 2015, she had gone to Paris and Amsterdam with a BFF and had absolutely fallen in love with Paris. Yeah, she loved Amsterdam too, but that’s not what this story is about. 🙂

As we started to look at places to go for our 2019 vacation, she really wanted to go back to Paris. I had always wanted to go too, so it quickly moved to the top of the bucket list.

And boy did I ever fall in love with the city, even before we went there in September. We started watching YouTube vlogs related to the city, and while there are many out there for Paris, the one we kept going back to was Jay Swanson’s.

What made Jay’s videos stand out was that they weren’t just from tourists who’d spent a week there and were offering their suggestions. Jay, who was raised in Washington state, actually lives in Paris. So we not only got an American perspective, but one that had evolved over time as he became more and more familiar with the city.

Added to that was that he made a vlog a day for over 1000 days. So, while some were made when he was stateside or elsewhere in the world, the vast majority are about Paris. We watched and devoured and made notes about many of his episodes, and we learned so much about the city.

Which leads us to this book and the subsequent review. As we watched the daily vlogs from Jay, we also went back to the beginning, before he was in Paris, and watched all of them. The more we watched, the more fascinated we became with the struggles, challenges, and triumphs Jay experienced over the years, not to mention how he actually got to Paris.

And that’s exactly what this book is about. It tells the story of how he ended up in Paris in the first place, why he majored in French, how he went about traveling on Mercy Ships, and, along the way, managed to write several novels.

But here’s the deal. You don’t have to be familiar with his vlog series to enjoy this book, although it does help to know some of the backstory and where the book is headed. He has led a fascinating life so far, and this book goes into extensive details of his time at home, at fantasy/writing conferences, the amazing work Mercy Ships does for those who can’t afford medical care, and, of course, how he finally ended up in Paris, presumably for good. And Jay does it with brutal honesty about his struggles, something he skips over for much of his vlog series, which he explains in the book.

Overall, I found this book very fascinating, as it was wonderful to read about how Jay managed to accomplish all he has so far, even if it was simply putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. You get in-depth insight into his adventure, and it’s a story that is amazing, even if you pick it up having no clue who he is. It’s a story of challenges, successes, failures, and what it’s like to sail into the vast Sea of the Unknown, especially when the Shores of the Known are not so inviting anymore.

The book is available many places, such as the author’s website and via the Amazon link below. And if you’d like to dig into his vlog series, it’s on YouTube and well worth the time, especially if you’re planning a trip to Paris.

Rating: Five stars (out of five possible)

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