Thursday, 13 September 2012

Bookworm: The Backpacker by John Harris

I think this is the first time I’ve been in a position such as this with a book. After seeing this book listed as a ‘recommended’ option on my Kindle I decided to download it (particularly as it was quite cheap on there too!) Predictably tempted by the mention of Thailand and the book being like The Beach, “but true”, I was sure it was going to be a hit.

The book centres around John Harris who goes on holiday to India and ends up meeting new people, breaking up with his girlfriend and discovering a passion for visiting new places – returning to England not an option.

In terms of the story itself, I am a tad unsure whether it is all true to be honest – I don’t want to spoil what happens by detailing events, but if you read it you’ll see what I mean. It does at times seem a little far-fetched. I can’t deny I was hooked though and kept wanting to read on and see what happened next.

It was more John and his travelling friends he made that gave me the problem with this book. Specifically their attitude. Now I am no Mother Theresa and I don’t have experience of actual backpacking and what I’d call ‘proper’ travelling (i.e. going away for more than a couple of weeks and travelling around various areas, typically on a tight budget). However, the way Harris refers to some locations and the people I found pretty rude. His behaviour moreover was selfish and arrogant at times – I cannot believe some of the things they did and the way they acted.

At one point the author criticises a Scottish worker in Hong Kong for being a pig and his attitude towards the local people and customs. Yet if Harris stepped back and looked how he acted and how he treated the locals (in particular women in the sex trade) he might realise his own issues.

Maybe I am just too traditional and ‘prim and proper’ in my attitude, but I just can’t see how it is ever acceptable to steal money, steal people’s belongings (and pretty huge ones at times) or damage someone else’s property.

Part of me wonders if the guy writing this is just a bit too good at stretching the truth and he’d like to think these things all happened, who knows…

Good bits
True or not, the story keeps you interested and wondering what will happen next
I liked getting a different person’s perspective on travelling
Enjoyed hearing about other countries

Not so great
Very narrow view from the author on what visiting other countries should involve
Not a fan of his behaviour most of the time and his treatment of the Asian women

Overall I did enjoy the story itself and the book. However the main character – who in turn is the writer of the book as well in this case – I found to be a rather ignorant pig and his behaviour and attitude appalled me at times.

I’d be interested to see what other backpackers and travellers made of his take on things…

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