Monday, August 4, 2014

Need a laugh? I found (more than) one for you

Up the Amazon Without a PaddleUp the Amazon Without a Paddle by Doug Lansky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely hysterical.

Reminiscent of Bill Bryson, yes, but Doug Lansky has his own little special writing thing going on.

In addition to the fact that I laughed out loud during nearly every chapter of this book, what I really appreciated about this is that Lansky treats experiences as they actually are.

Let me explain this.

I studied abroad a long time ago, and to this day I get self conscious when people ask me about it, because they always seem more excited in their curiosity than I do in my telling of the story. I felt that my time abroad was worthwhile, educational, and at times fun, but there are also aggravations that come with international travel, feelings of personal insecurity and incompetency, and annoyance with those around you (be they natives of where you're visiting or fellow Americans/tourists you're traveling with). In other words, travel is in many ways an everyday experience -- you still eat, bathe, sleep, talk to people, etc. in France just as you would at home.

But I feel that so often it is regarded as this flawless thing -- all gelato and romance and vistas all the time.

Lansky, I felt, let an experience be what it really was. He didn't get too deep into some of the negative travel emotions I listed above, which kept the book lighthearted, which I loved. But he didn't make an experience out to be more or less than it actually was for him. When telling his story of fishing in Namibia*, he makes fun of himself for catching a bunch of kelp in the ocean. And for the rest of the essay, while making the reader laugh continually, if you look closely, all he does is tell the story, as it happened. Creatively and funnily, but without embellishment to alienate the less-traveled reader.

I tend to get jealous when I read the work of most travel writers (minus Bryson and now, Lansky), because it simply reminds me that I haven't been able to travel to that place where they have. I may be the only one who has this issue, and I admit I have jealousy things to work on in my life. But I also know that there is a way to include your reader, by inviting him or her to enjoy the same laugh you had, and Lansky achieves that.

I really enjoyed this book and will be looking for more Lansky material to read.

I often avoid travel writing (because of all the jealousy), but while waiting for my mom recently at the library, I actually pulled this off the shelf. I am so glad I checked it out and gave it a chance.

*Interestingly enough, the country where I studied abroad

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