Funny L.A. girl Kristin Newman wrote for hit TV shows like That ’70s Show and How I Met Your Mother, but her debut memoir What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding follows her extensive off-season travel and ensuing personal growth. In her twenties and thirties, it seemed like all of her friends were getting married and reproducing (I’m sure many of us can relate). Newman, on the other hand, spent the better part of a decade buying plane tickets and adventuring abroad. She recognizes her unique lifestyle caused her to miss other experiences, saying, “life is an endless series of choosing between two things you want almost equally…You have to trade awesome for awesome.” By rejecting the notion of one “right” life path, she crafts a relatable story for any woman, married or single, wanderer or homebody. She doesn’t regret her choices, and you won’t regret reading about them.
Places to Go
Newman raves in Amsterdam, celebrates New Year’s Eve in Paris, gets a floating massage at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, paraglides in New Zealand, and floats in the Dead Sea. Of course, even an intrepid adventurer like Newman faces travel mishaps and a few terrible travel companions. In the Dominican Republic, a friend accidentally runs over her foot resulting in an emergency surgery which wasn’t exactly on the Caribbean agenda.
Despite Newman’s occasional travel trouble, you’ll likely catch an extreme case of wanderlust from this book. I spent hours searching for flights to surprising destinations like Russia, Iceland, and Israel, emboldened by Newman’s travel advice. Above all, she encourages being open while traveling. “You say yes because it is the only way to really experience another place, and let it change you,” and say ‘yes’ she does.
People to See
In the midst of all the sightseeing, Newman hilariously masters the “vacationship.” As she puts it, “you can have both love and freedom when you fall in love with an exotic local in an exotic locale, since there is a return ticket next to the bed that you by law will eventually have to use.” She galivants with an almost-priest in Argentina, a Finn in the Dominican Republic, and an incredibly aggressive Brazilian. (She aptly titles her hysterical Brazil chapter “Brazilians Skip Second and Steal Third.”)
Her international love affairs are vastly entertaining, especially a recurring romance with Juan from Argentina in chapters “Love the Juan You’re With” and “Juan More Time, With Feeling.” (TV lovers’ tangent: Remember when Robin brings back an Argentine boyfriend in How I Met Your Mother? Thank Juan!)
Things to Learn
Newman does more than list glistening destinations and tantalizing foreign lovers; she explores the depths of love and friendship as fearlessly as she explores foreign cities. Newman poignantly depicts her parents’ divorce, and how it shaped her view of marriage as “Much more ‘ever after’ than ‘happily.’” She delves candidly into her own relationships and rejected proposals. After a particularly distressing incident in Spain, she confronts her complex feelings about her father with a therapist.
Most importantly, I think, she reflects about contentedly staying unmarried throughout her twenties and into her thirties, though all of society seemed to be pushing her toward the altar. Just because you’re not getting married and having babies on the same schedule as everyone around you doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
Even when Newman broaches serious topics, you’ll find yourself quickly flipping through the pages. I devoured What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding in two days and have emphatically recommended it to my married and single girlfriends alike. Give it a try, update your passport, and let me know where this captivating memoir takes you, figuratively or literally.