I’ve always thought that the idea of backpacking through Europe sounded fun, adventurous and, dare I say it, sophisticated. Of course, this was back before my friends started making the trek and before living in England. Now, well, it seems fun and hectic, but a bit less adventurous and a whole lot less sophisticated.
What can you expect when staying at youth hostels and living out of a backpack that’s barely big enough to pack travel-sized shampoo? not like i know (many) people who have done that…
So, you can imagine the sort of attitude I had as I approached Bill Bryson’s travelougue Neither Here Nor There where he re-creates a previous trip across Europe he took when he was younger. I was ready for excitement, entertainment and, of course, a whole lot of laughs. What else can you expect with a Bryson book?
I was rewarded with each and every one of my expectations coming true in the most surprising and fantastical of manners.
Bryson describes his trip through Europe with an endearing self-deprecating hilarity that makes the reader feel as if they too could hop on a plane, land in Norway and take a thirty-six hour bus journey to see the Northern Lights. While travelogues, especially ones that involve long trips, can sometimes seem off-putting, Neither Here Nor There is compulsively readable because nothing seems inaccesabile.
While the book focuses on Bryson’s journey, it also serves for an interesting look at how Europe has changed not only during the near twenty years between his two trips, but also in the two decades since the book was written. The reader is constantly faced with ideas that would now seem archaic to the modern-traveler. When in Italy, Bryson is a victim of pickpocketing and loses his travelers checks.
There are also weighter reflections on the changing world of Europe. If Bryson had trouble with how many of the countries were already losing their identities, one can only imagine what he must think now. Indeed, that is what makes the book so interesting. Yes, we laugh at his antics, but ultimately we keep reading Neither Here Nor There in order to gain a sense of our changing world.
Why hop on a plane when you can read a book? At least that hasn’t changed. Well not that much, I didn’t read this one on my kindle.
Have you ever traveled across Europe? Would you want to?