So, I have this friend. A friend who is a dude. A dudefriend, shall we say. A week or so ago, this dudefriend and I were engaging in some 3 AM phone banter (along with being nerd-like, I have some serious issues with sleep), and I was explaining to him that I have a serious, serious case of wanderlust, and all I really want to do with my life is travel around the world and experience as much of it as I possibly can before I die. This dudefriend, knowing full and well of my love for books, then asked me a very good question:
“Have you ever read any books on travel?” (He said this in a very annoying manner, as dudefriends are wont to do.)
Point for you, dudefriend. No, I had not read any books on travel; I’d read guidebooks and brochures when I was trekking around Europe for four months, I’d read articles found in my parents Scuba magazines, and I’d devoured the Travel section of the L.A. Times, but never once had I read a real, honest-to-goodness travel book.
And thus I arrived at No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday. Halliday is refreshingly honest, open, and forthright with her (mis)adventures in traveling, from being accosted by a prostitute in Amsterdam, to the woes of a malaria-ravaged digestive track in Africa, to lessons on hygiene from a train station cop in Munich. Often funny in her brutal honesty, Halliday’s book reflects the conflict between what one expects and what one receives when exploring the world.
While Halliday’s honesty is delightfully frank, she takes some of the magic away from travel. Her child-like wonder when she first arrives in each country is repeatedly squashed by some bizarre (and, admittedly, entertaining), which eventually becomes tiresome for the reader, whose hopes are dashed as well as having the exotic de-mystified.
For a good laugh and a relatable read for travelers who love the word, but can’t who can’t quite seem to get it right, look no further than No Touch Monkey!