It’s not every day that a New York Times best-selling author shows up at your book club. When one of my friends suggested How the World Makes Love by Franz Wisner for our next read, I was definitely on board. Wisner’s Honeymoon with My Brother chronicled the unexpected way his life unfolded after his fiancée left him at the altar—as you might guess from the title, he took his brother on his pre-paid honeymoon; from there they quit their jobs and embarked on a two-year world tour.
Being a travel-book junkie (and somewhat unlucky in love myself), his follow-up sounded intriguing. Back home and still smarting from his heartbreak, Wisner declared love was dead in the U.S.— “We’ve taken love for granted, fled from it, and trashed it behind its back. We’ve exploited it, distorted it, ignored it, politicized it, and closeted it.”
So for his charming sequel, he hit the road to see what other nations could teach him about romance, marriage, and sex—and he dropped by our book club meeting last week to share the world’s wisdom. So, what love lessons did he learn? Read for yourself:
Brazil “Possibility”—Be open to love, and be vulnerable. Wisner is drawn to the concept of saudade, “Brazil’s unique word for missing someone so much you ache inside and everywhere.”
India “Commitment”—Love takes hard work. Here he encounters the idea of learned love, something that grows over time, and requires you to “surrender” to the process.
Nicaragua “Resilience”—True love conquers all. “Nicaragua reemphasized the importance of love and family over forces beyond our control.”
Czech Republic “Dexterity”—Love first, plan second. “What do you do when your society spins in folly? You embrace what you can control.”
Egypt “Faith”—Love is heaven-sent, a “crucial part in the journey toward enlightenment.” It’s about choosing someone based on pious character and long-term potential: “Marriage is a decision of the left brain more than the heart.” And it’s about much more than just two people: “The happiest couples I met were grounded in community, based in faith, consumed not by consumption.”
New Zealand “Equability”—Equality is integral to love. “In no other country on our journeys did I see women such equal partners as they are here…New Zealand showed me how attractive equality can be.”
Botswana “Optimism”—See the glass as half-full. In Africa, “there’s no reason to be optimistic about tomorrow. But Africa is, which makes Africans’ brand of love the most inspirational of all.”
Wisner peppers his experiences with witty commentary and observations, and he unexpectedly finds himself falling for a woman he might never have considered if his global quest hadn’t opened his eyes.
“Meeting Tracy was good for my love life but horrible for the book,” he told us. “I had sold it as a look at love from afar, but wound up combining the world’s love story with my own.”
Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure.