Review | Design Your Next Chapter, Debbie Travis

DesignYourNextChapterBookCoverDesign Your Next Chapter includes some nice, inspiring stories about women who pursued their dreams (their “next chapter”), some nice advice about pursuing your own.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect at all to this book, and while her advice was mostly unobjectionable, the disconnect between the book’s apparent intended audience and my own life circumstances left me just dreaming of a Tuscan vacation.

Travis’ message is inspiring and inoffensive enough: pursue your dreams, even when it scares you. To Travis’ credit, she also admits it’s not easy, and gives some good advice on being practical about it, e.g. keeping your day job if you can’t afford to live without a steady income, putting together a solid business plan to get a bank to loan you money for your passion project, deferring/modifying your dream if you need to care for a sick spouse, etc. But for the most part, the examples she gives are those of women whose experiences were similar to her own: middle / upper middle class women who’ve built successful careers, achieved financial stability, and raised children to adulthood, and are now feeling empty and wondering what else there is to life.

In Travis’ case, after years of career success with decorating shows, she falls in love with Frances Mayes’ writing and dreams of opening her own Tuscan villa. So she and her husband combine savings, take out a loan and now operate a women’s retreat in Tuscany. Good for her, and to be honest, her Tuscan retreat sounds like a fun time. The thing is, many of her stories about other women came from women she met at her retreat, which means these are often women who can already afford a Tuscany retreat in the first place. Often, they have a strong support system in place — a supportive spouse, a healthy savings account, money already saved for a large purchase like a house, a large and supportive community of friends, and so on.

I don’t mean to minimize Travis’ accomplishments, nor the accomplishments of the women whose stories she told. Regardless of your life situation, it does take courage to pursue your passion and embark on a “next chapter.” But such a life situation feels so far out of the realm of my own possibilities that I couldn’t quite get inspired.

Again, to Travis’ credit, she acknowledges finances can be a barrier. But she also often glosses over these barriers. She may say that having no savings can be a detriment, but then immediately follows up with how it shouldn’t be a deterrent because it’s a solveable problem. You just need to beg, borrow or barter with your friends, or create a business plan to take to the bank. And fair, you can certainly do that, but because Travis glosses over these barriers so smoothly, I wonder how much of a consideration they actually are / were in how she envisioned this book. It almost felt like an afterthought, a pro forma acknowledgement that there are some legitimate difficulties to pursuing one’s dreams, which is immediately followed up by a fairly simplistic solution. The result is that the book felt like a very Pollyanna — and yes, privileged — approach to pursuing one’s dreams.

The other reason I found it hard to connect with the book is that many of the examples Travis uses involves starting an entrepreneurial business, which isn’t and has never been something that interests me. I wish she’d included examples of people who pursued next chapters that didn’t have to do with going freelance or starting a business.

Overall, the book isn’t bad; it just didn’t resonate at all with me.


Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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