This book has been on my To Read shelf for a while. Last summer I read ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland, loved it, and instantly began looking for similar books to read. ‘The Backpacker’ consistently came out top of the list. Living in China means English novels are difficult to come by, unless you’re a huge fan of the Classics that is, so I recently purchased a Kindle! Probably the best investment in technology I have made in a while because even though I was previously adamant I would never succumb to the evil of e-book readers, I now cannot live in China without it!
So ‘The Backpacker’ came off the To Read shelf finally!
I have to admit, I spent the first 35% (wonderful thing the percentage bar on the Kindle) pretty unimpressed. The very first part sees John in India with his fiancée, and though there were some descriptive parts that I enjoyed, it was for the most part rather moany as he complained about India and it’s bizarre ways. I thought it would pick up once he landed in Thailand in pursuit of Rick, a fellow English-man who had invited him to join him in Thailand. Much to my disappointment, I felt like I was involved in some of drugged-up dream. Their lives were about getting high every night in the jungles and beaches of Thai islands, with a lot of swearing and girls to boot. It had none of the flair of ‘The Beach’, and I found myself slogging through it, hoping the drugs would run out and they would get bored of their Thai islands.
The drugs didn’t run out, nor did they get bored of Thailand, but very suddenly, the book picked up and they are frantically on the run trying to cross the border into Malaysia with one passport between the two of them.
Not to give the story line away, but the next two-thirds of the story are jam-packed with adventure that we can only imagine, from an interesting stay in Singapore, to stealing a boat, sailing across the ocean, tragedy in a storm, ending up in and getting ripped off in Australia, and then jet-setting off to Hong Kong in search of riches. I was so wrapped up in the excitement and the thoughts of John that I forgot at times that this is no story – this is a biography, and it is amazing to think that the author lived this way for so long. Though some of his experiences I would gladly give a miss, you can’t help but find yourself daydreaming whilst reading this book, and wondering if you too could live this way, if it is actually possible.
What began as a slow read, I soon found myself so enthralled that I couldn’t put it down. I can highly recommend this excellently written book if you too love to travel and dream of exotic, foreign places!