from internet cafes to nepal
You can imagine that Intrepid’s CEO and co-founder doesn’t have much time to sit down and enjoy a good book, but holidays are the exception and Darrell Wade felt compelled to review his latest travel read…
“Earlier this year I was trekking in Nepal with my family. We had three weeks and quickly got into the routine of early rises, wonderful walking all day and finishing mid afternoon at our new campsite. Some afternoons we’d play volleyball with our porters and guides, other days it was badminton – and we even played cricket a couple of times.
The afternoons were also a time for reading. Here I am at over 4000 metres in the Annapurna region, reading my favourite book of the year – Planet Backpacker, by Robert Downes. It’s the story of a newspaper editor from mid-west America who, in a fit of mid-life crisis, headed off travelling the world as a backpacker.
Now this story isn’t just a “On Tuesday I went to Rome and saw the Coliseum…”, far from it. Bob decided to buy a mountain bike and head off to Europe with little more than a map, a GPS and an incurable sense of naive optimism.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the book was the author’s candour and honesty. He had great days and shocking days – and we live them all through his daily search for an internet cafe to record his travels and emotions in his blog. He wears his heart on his sleeve and allows us to meet the people he meets and live the detail of a traveller’s life.
After several weeks of cycling Bob leaves his trusty old bike and heads to India – where as luck would have it he joins an Intrepid trip. (We didn’t know about Bob or his book until after it was published.) In India he has a series of events that open our eyes to the sheer diversity and intrigue of the world we live in, and how it is so very different from our homes. To be honest, these events are nothing really that extraordinary for the seasoned traveller, but because Bob isn’t that experienced, his recollections have great freshness and excitement in their telling. (When I am with a group of Intrepid travellers in some distant land I always love the way a dozen stories come out over dinner about the day’s explorations – that is the sense that Bob captures in his book.)
Bob continues on through Thailand, Vietnam and other countries – and can’t quite work out why he very rarely comes across any Americans. There are Danes and Kiwis, English and Germans, Canadians and Australians – but rarely any Americans. And this is the other reason why I like this book. The author gains a real sense of self-awareness from his travelling experience, and yet at the end of the day is a regular guy from Michigan.
At the risk of being a little controversial, I can’t help but think if we had more Americans travelling the way Bob does, there would be a greater level of understanding in the world. Too often Americans are misunderstood by people around the world – and Americans themselves also misunderstand the world at times. Travel builds knowledge, awareness and cultural bridges – this in turn breaks down the barriers of self interest and therefore reduces conflict. Bob’s tale highlights this well.”
If a book has inspired you to travel or simply makes for great reading while on the road, please email firstname.lastname@example.org – let us know a little of what it’s about plus an indication of the size, as we would love to hear your recommendation for a great backpack book!
You can check out other recommendations from Intrepid Express readers by clicking on the ‘books for your backpack’ travel theme in this blog or seeing the latest book reviews on the Intrepid travel website.