I bought this book by mistake. (Sorry Adam.) I thought Bill Bryson was the author. Then I started reading it and quickly realized my favorite author did not write the book but was only recommending it. However, with each unfolding paragraph, I found a laugh-out-loud, but highly insightful and informative book, with insight not only into the facts and absurdities of the places described, but insights into the author’s self-deprecating self. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and immediately began sharing what I was learning with friends. I will buy a copy for my son, who has long aspired to be Adam, not knowing someone like Adam exists in reality. I will read the other books written by Adam, and look forward to his future works as well.
Don’t Go There by Adam Fletcher is described as “From Chernobyl to North Korea-- One Man’s Quest to Lose Himself and Find Everyone Else in the World’s Strangest Places.” The subtitle probably suffers from a politically correct faux pas; in chapter one Adam is losing himself in Turkey but companion Annett is with him. It is not “one man’s” quest until Adam manages to piss Annett off. However, it is a travel novel and for the constant traveler such as myself, this book is automatically interesting. Reading this will introduce potential travelers to practices that might be a culture shock to the unprepared. For instance, in Chapter One Annett and Adam are in Turkey where during anti-government demonstrations they observe much of the population protesting in the streets by banging on kitchen pots and pans. Fletcher describes this as a time-honored tradition going back to 1923 during the time of Kemal Atatürk.
The pair has an adventure on a bus in China that takes place over more than forty hours. That is forty hours on a bus that is not moving. Drivers are waiting for authorities to lift a barricade. There are lessons for the reader. When traveling in the lesser developed world (the countryside of China) take plenty of food and water. This was a familiar situation to me, one which I nearly copied a few years ago in Cambodia.
Similar cautions apply when traveling in Africa. Adam and Annett traveled to Ghana. They toured schools run by a volunteer agency and discovered an interesting phenomenon. Locals assumed that the two could be the source of donations for further education. When they tried to explain they were in Ghana as tourists on a vacation, the answer was “You came to Ghana for vacation?” The questioners adopted a tone of amazement when asking this question.
The excursion to Israel glosses over an important point. Travelers who previously visited several Muslim countries are going to have problems getting through immigration checks and procuring a visa. Adam and Annett even crossed from Jerusalem into Palestine controlled areas. This section is heavier on philosophy than humor but is still worth reading.
The dialogue between Adam and Annett is hilarious. She is the sensible one, the one who believes in making plans and thinking before starting out. She is not shy about blaming Adam when things go wrong, in other words frequently. Her criticisms mostly contain a lot of wry humor. Adam is a guy who thinks about something, launches, and then reacts to the flow of things. Adam is also remarkably averse to work. He has found a way to make money as a nomad with a computer. Annett has a job which requires her physical presence; this also serves as an anchor for Adam so that he is not perpetually traveling. The pair has a residence hub in Berlin where they can recover from developing world realities between trips.
This is a hilarious travel book. I don’t see any danger of revealing spoilers. I want to comment on some of the conditions they meet and how they deal with problems, but they are only samples. The book is full of practical issues and occasionally some philosophizing on the nature of war, income inequality, and what should be international human rights. Even the philosophizing is hilarious as it provokes serious thought.
A part of any traveler’s journey, desired or not, is the wonderful interactions with other travelers and expatriates. I am being sarcastic; I avoid prolonged social engagements with other travelers. Adam and Annett have the benefit of supporting each other. This is also good advice, companions at least act in a predictable way. Again, there is a lot of humor as Adam and Annett meet some complete whackos.
The Hare Krishna Ashram in Argentina experience broke up the Adam-Annett team as far as further travel outside Germany. Annett was tired of not having creature comforts available. Adam went on to visit Chernobyl, a couple of micro-nations, and Romania. There is an interesting section on his return to his hometown in England. There are very good observations on travel in general, the idea that you may be able to go home again, and the very decent idea that adventures are everywhere. It is just a point of view.
If anything in the book is a spoiler, it is the details of a trip to North Korea. I won’t comment on it. It is worth reading for humor, philosophy, and information not generally known. I gave this four Amazon stars because the first part of the book was hilarious up until the time Annett went back to Germany. Adam traveling alone is not as interesting. But he does get his groove back so the novel ends on a high note (with humor) also.
A must read! This book is a true eye opener. Mr. Fletcher and his girlfriend travel to places that are not recommended for tourism to find out why. And they do find out why. All are told with a lot of humor but are also well grounded in truth. Told in a way that makes you feel you are there with them. Mr. Fletcher paints a very vivid picture. I finished reading this book a couple days ago and I am still feeling the shock of their trip to North Korea and the description of what they saw there. There is nothing funny about life in North Korea. How in todays world can a place like North Korea exist? Very sobering.
I really enjoyed traveling with Adam to places no sane person would visit throughout the world, from Chernobyl to North Korea. It was truly fascinating, with his romance with Anet a delightful sub-plot. The reader will see how Adam grows and evolves from an adventuresome guy to settling down to adulthood and responsibility, after his grand adventures. A truly good, highly recommended book for anyone who enjoys true non-fiction off the beaten path. I actually sat up all night to finish it.
I have recently read some overly serious and pretentious travel books. This is not one of them. This author has a lot of humility and ability to laugh at himself. And he has very good reason to be laughed at, frankly. He and his descriptions make this book so funny. I have laughed pretty hard reading it.
Sometimes a book or movie will be good for further laughs a week, or a year later. I think this is definitely one of those books.
I also identified with the unexpected events that happen while traveling. If you can laugh, it changes everything.
This is one of the most hilarious books I've read in a long time. Think Dave Barry meets Rick Steves. With some great life lessons thrown in for good measure.
Fletcher is a balding Brit in his 30's who lives in Berlin. A self-described couch potato, he decides to get out of his rut and travel to places that will take him out of his comfort zone. Such as Istanbul during riots, Moldova, a Hare Krishna camp in Argentina, a 48-hour "overnight" bus ride in China during holiday season, Hebron, etc. His prose made me laugh out loud, over and over again (samples below). I felt like underlining the whole book.
But it's really the self-knowledge that Fletcher gains that makes this more than an entertaining read. He concludes that being bored with one's own (first-world) culture is a luxury. Most people in countries that malfunction are struggling just to survive. He doesn't really try to analyze why countries malfunction; rather, he observes with a careful eye and lets us draw our own conclusions. "I'd lost sight of he extraordinary privilege inherent within boredom. Most people in the world don't get to decide whether or not to engage in politics. Don't feel so safe and secure and bored that they actively go out looking for danger, just to feel more alive."
A few other gems:
"That was what travel was for. The unfamiliarity of being where you don't belong frees you from any expectations about how things there are supposed to work, and, in turn, how you will react to them."
[About food at an ashram] "It didn't leave you feeling bloated and guilty like the bloody crime scene that was the rest of Argentinian cuisine."
"I was the sort of writer who talked about writing much more than getting around to doing any of it. Like an armchair sports fan, I preferred to cheer literature on from the safety of the sidelines, where I didn't have to get myself sentence sweaty."
"He had a face that seemed to be able to produce thunder, amongst other bad weather, all of which could be unleashed upon you at his discretion."
"Annett is not into children in the same way people are not into being hit with rocks."
With humor, pathos, and insight, Adam takes readers on trips to exotic and sometimes absurd locales they’d probably never choose to visit themselves. He is a delightful travel companion with a fresh, self-deprecating voice and a clever way of acquainting us with the little-known corners of the world. I especially appreciated his kind, forgiving views about the “different” experiences he had. I feel like I’ve been on a slow bus through China, North Korea, Russia and a few spots I had never even heard of before. I loved this quick, fun, humorous read and want to read MORE by this wonderful writer!
What a great book. I loved the journey and story telling, more than just a destination but a search to find out more about oneself and make sense of the world in general. Is this something we all do? Well maybe those of us who experience wanderlust. Adam really created an environment that you could envisage in your mind and the characters as well.
I read Adam's second book first so reading this book put all the pieces together somewhat, but I agree you can read these books independently of each other.
My only other comment is that Annette sounds great for 1, letting you be free to travel and 2, coming with you to some of these destinations. Lastly photos would have really added to the books.
I particularly liked the author's wit and self-deprecating humour as he travels the world to places that are somewhat off the beaten tourist track. In particular, his visits to Chernobyl and North Korea stood out for the almost-surreal experiences he had at both places. The first few chapters has him traveling with his suspiciously witty and articulate German girlfriend, whose effortless ability to match his badinage leads one to wonder whether her dialogue has been embellished somewhat. Eventually, she tires of his thirst for visiting the less-than-salubrious places he favours, and his remaining travels are solo, joining groups of similarly-adventurous tourists. The result is an easy, entertaining read that will have you laughing out loud at one point and shaking your head in disbelief at another. The world we live in is a world of many contrasts, and he certainly captures a few here.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book! Adam, whilst in pursuit of meaningfulness in his life, ventures to God-forsaken destinations to experience the local lore and encounters interesting characters and situations. The narrative is great and brings to mind travel logs many of us keep during our own travels, except Adam's are more entertaining! I found at the end of each chapter (location) I'd wish he'd stayed a bit longer and shared a bit more. His return to his hometown was insightful and probably my favorite chapter. Except maybe North Korea. Well done, Adam.