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Where the Light Begins: A Seeker's Journey for Truth, Freedom and a Place to Call Home


Loved it! 😍

Expect a rich sensory journey as the author travels the vastness of Asia in a memoir that speaks directly to women who wander the world.

Where the Light Begins by Cristy Elmendorp explores identity and where one fits in the world. There is clear exploration of codependency, autonomy, and seeking empowerment through experience. We are, under normal circumstances, in an era that allows for empowering solo female travel and this memoir speaks to women who are now able to explore that autonomous path. So, despite our current pandemic, I find this memoir to be timely. 

In the bulk of the memoir, Elmendorp explains her rich sensory experiences as she travels the vastness of Asia and its spiritual traditions. This is not what many would deem a ‘sexy’ memoir, as it is meant to be more reverent, spiritual, and inquisitive. Readers are left with open questions throughout. The overall quiet and less emotional perspective of the memoir speaks to the author’s cultural heritage, which are Dutch and Javanese, as well as her introverted personality. There are heavy relationship dynamics mentioned, but they are far lighter than many memoirs, so no trigger warnings needed. 

Geographically, this memoir spans her travels in Thailand, Romania, even Idaho, and to spiritual sites in Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, Tibet, and Myanmar. Everything from teak furniture to Goddess festivals to psychedelic experiences are explained, so sensualists and existentialists will be pleased. It is as if the reader is taking a mindful walk through her youthful globe trotting memories as she comes of age. Readers also get a peek inside a Christian commune (cult?) and some indigenous spiritual rituals too.

There are two critiques I had for Where the Light Begins. While there was no ill intent meant by it that I can tell, there was a misuse of the ethnic slur “gypsy.” It was used as a synonym for nomad, but based on the context was not meant to offend Romani people. Knowing the author speaks multiple languages has me convinced it was missed in translation. Also, I would say that there seemed to be some missing elements to her life story. This memoir leaves room for a second memoir, as it doesn’t cover her current life partner and glosses over some of her struggles.

Audience-wise, this memoir will likely speak to female travelers of many ages or really anyone with an adventurous soul. The growth she undertakes is a slow emergence and makes for a better second half, as I admired her new sense of empowerment the most. If you liked Educated by Tara Westover, in which a sheltered young woman escapes a religious sect, then Where the Light Begins might be for you too. It is not about escaping a particularly abusive family like Westover did, and is a much more easy going read, but there is nonetheless a sense of Elmendorp wanting to become her own person, forge her own path, and find freedom in her own mind and life.

Reviewed by

Nomadic Soul. BOI>TUS>DEN>SEA. Particularly love reading novels saturated in feminism, culture, world travel, history, and empowerment. Many forms of storytelling have a special place in my heart, but I usually fall hardest for authentic memoirs, anthologies, and mythology in particular.

Flight of the Garuda

About the author

Cristy Elmendorp was born in Jakarta to Dutch-Indonesian parents. Cristy graduated cum laude with a degree in English literature from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and University College London. Cristy currently lives in The Netherlands with her two big loves, Thomas, and their son, Goya. view profile

Published on June 01, 2020

80000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by