There are some things in here that, although they sound like spoilers I do not think they have a bearing on the actual story.
This was an amazing book. My first bit of advice, skip the pre-chapters. Save them until later on. This book sat for a week because the pre-chapters were so boring and made no sense to me. I could not read it. But I kept going and am better for the experience of reading this book. I am glad I hung in!
It is about Doug "Ten" Rose. You will find out later how he gets his nickname. It is a great story. One of so many great stories. He is a drug dealer in New York and one day decides he wants something more. So Doug and his girlfriend Mary decide to pack a few things, and just start hitch-hiking.
All of the chapters are encounters of people that picked up a hitch-hiking Doug and Mary. And later on just Doug. This happens early so it is not a spoiler.
A lot of stories were told here in these pages with so many life lessons but without being preachy. Stories about people living in harmony, from Doug and Mary's first stop, and people sharing what they have, as little as it was, with others. Whether tangible or intangible. All the knowledge that Doug's drivers and hosts when he stayed overnight somewhere, was passed on to Doug and was about a way way to live, about people and life.
There are discussions on what is wrong with the government, health care, religion, etc. And Doug and Mary are together for about five years. You have to find out why Doug decided to go it alone from there on.
My favorite chapter was Chapter 16 - Preface to a Shortcut to Heaven. Doug talks about how your cravings and aversions distract you from your life. They keep you not fully in the present. For example, if you are a smoker, you are thinking of when your next cigarette is so you cannot fully be in the present. He goes on to explain how this is a problem and uses other examples of focusing too much on good things too! He gives us a lot of great advice one being "Adjust your mentality to the objective and you have found the road".
We learn that everything is important. And in that state of importance all things are equal and impermanent. Our unrealistic attachment to things and situations brings on many dramas and mysteries.
A big theme of the book was to spend time doing things to help yourself, not things that don't. And this includes helping out a fellow human being no matter what.
Doug was very very lucky to have a group of people that not only picked him up from the side of the road, but taught him life lessons. Doug made so many friends, that, in passing through again, he always had a place to stay wherever he went pretty much.
He does talk about his drug use. There is a lot of pot smoking which he feels is okay and for some reason, I believe almost all of his rides partook also. But then, halfway through the book, he did start getting into heavy drugs and almost died. The interesting thing was he had been forewarned by the old man who picked him up. Doug was headed to a city where nothing good comes out of. But drugs and certain death were a bad choice and only through this did he gain enlightenment. He describes of being pulled by fate back from the brink. And has a dream (or a hallucination he is not sure) which is of major significance later on in the book. Be on the look out for it.
Doug started to get into Tibetan teachings. He went to seminars, met the higher ups if you will. People like the Dahli Lama and the teachers that are high up but below the Dahli Lama.
Doug learned he is responsible for his own fate. He learned how to meditate and get that "high" feeling by being cleansed and doing work for others. He was never selfish, but now even more so.
He learned everything passes in and out of existence, but it can be quick like swatting a fly, or the slow melting of a glacier.
He learned change is constant and, on the road it was. he figured out what worked for him and what did not. He learned that he is in control of his life and can write his own script which can turn out anyway he want.
One of my favorite lines was (paraphrasing) Changes of attitude and action changes the resulting effects of attitudes and actions.
Just a note, time is not mentioned often. There is a point in the book that describes a five year period in Doug's Life, and a ten year period, and a 9 year one. I think all of the above was the first five years. But again it is not totally important to the story. Just mentioning the passing of time is mildly irrelevant.
After a chance encounter, Doug started working for Greenpeace. He had some great ideas, he could definitely interact with others, and he cared. He impressed the people high up in the corporation. People loved him and contributed left and right when he went out door to door or business to business to talk about Greenpeace. Doug still never wanted to settle down. You can say he was homeless but always had a place to stay because of the kind of good person he was and the good friends he made. So he continued traveling around and raising money for Greenpeace for about 9 years.
Another favorite line in the book (paraphrased) is that Doug learned humans are NOT on top of the evolutionary ladder because of our disrespect for the importance of harmonious relationships with the rest of the planets inhabitants.
Chapter 46 was also my favorite. Regarding Mr. Hastings and Mr. Isauro.
Doug really found himself into Asian disciplines. Without describing it, I recognized that he was having Reiki performed on him which is very calming and spiritual. He also still went to Buddist teaching conferences when they came to wherever he was residing at at the time. It was like he was supposed to be there to hear the person speak. It is like it was written in stone, there when he needed it.
He continues to travel and the conversations in the car make the book. This all really happened. He was very blessed to be able to read people, and sometimes not get into a car, but for the most part, he mey the nicest kind of people, and to make a ton of friends. Think of this book as a bunch of short stories that link together.
We find as Doug moves on, he settles into a cabin in Vermont. It is a friens's who only uses it once or twice a year but mainly has it for a tax writeoff. So although Doug is on the road now doing even more for the Earth and other humans than Greenpeace (such as feeding hungry children, and homes for families with no home, and other environmental issues facing us today), he is raising money but making money too. Just enough to live on. And when he has run through his states, still hitch-hiking, he has a place to just lay his weary head back at the cabin.
About another 10 years go by and Doug is getting older. He is not the same physically as when he started out. So he takes a class to certify him to teach English as a Second Language.
As the end of the book comes to a draw, Doug has come from a state of being homeless (the man who was letting Doug have the cabin and owned the cabin lost all his money so Doug had nowhere to go) but just at this time, he got this book published and was on a plane to a new place. He said life is like hitch-hiking: Pick a place you want to go, prepare wisely, read your map, hit the road with your eyes open. Great life advice.
The book has a lot of repetition of ideas but you like to hear it again because it is so profound. Simple but profound.
This is a very long book (8000 plus Kindle units) but it is definitely worth it. The lessons I got from here I will never forget. Plus it is entertaining there is never a dull moment with Doug and all of the people he meets and befriends. I recommend this book highly.