Don’t Go There by Adam Fletcher is described as “From Chernobyl to North Korea– One Man’s Quest to Lose Himself and Find Everyone Else in the World’s Strangest Places.” The subtitle probably suffers from a politically correct faux pas; in Chapter One Adam is losing himself in Turkey but companion Annett is with him. It is not “one man’s” quest until Adam manages to piss Annett off. However, it is a travel novel and for the constant traveler such as myself, this book is automatically interesting. Reading this will introduce potential travelers to practices that might be a culture shock to the unprepared. For instance, in Chapter One Annett and Adam are in Turkey where during anti-government demonstrations they observe much of the population protesting in the streets by banging on kitchen pots and pans. Fletcher describes this as a time-honored tradition going back to 1923 during the time of Kemal Atatürk.
The pair has an adventure on a bus in China that takes place over more than forty hours. That is forty hours on a bus that is not moving. Drivers are waiting for authorities to lift a barricade. There are lessons for the reader. When traveling in the lesser developed world (the countryside of China) take plenty of food and water. This was a familiar situation to me, one which I nearly copied a few years ago in Cambodia.
Similar cautions apply when traveling in Africa. Adam and Annett traveled to Ghana. They toured schools run by a volunteer agency and discovered an interesting phenomenon. Locals assumed that the two could be the source of donations for further education. When they tried to explain they were in Ghana as tourists on a vacation, the answer was “You came to Ghana for vacation?” The questioners adopted a tone of amazement when asking this question.
The excursion to Israel glosses over an important point. Travelers who previously visited several Muslim countries are going to have problems getting through immigration checks and procuring a visa. Adam and Annett even crossed from Jerusalem into Palestine controlled areas. This section is heavier on philosophy than humor but is still worth reading.
The dialogue between Adam and Annett is hilarious. She is the sensible one, the one who believes in making plans and thinking before starting out. She is not shy about blaming Adam when things go wrong, in other words frequently. Her criticisms mostly contain a lot of wry humor. Adam is a guy who thinks about something, launches, and then reacts to the flow of things. Adam is also remarkably averse to work. He has found a way to make money as a nomad with a computer. Annett has a job which requires her physical presence; this also serves as an anchor for Adam so that he is not perpetually traveling. The pair has a residence hub in Berlin where they can recover from developing world realities between trips.
This is a hilarious travel book. I don’t see any danger of revealing spoilers. I want to comment on some of the conditions they meet and how they deal with problems, but they are only samples. The book is full of practical issues and occasionally some philosophizing on the nature of war, income inequality, and what should be international human rights. Even the philosophizing is hilarious while at the same time it provokes serious thought.
A part of any traveler’s journey, desired or not, is the wonderful interactions with other travelers and expatriates. I am being sarcastic; I avoid prolonged social engagements with other travelers. Adam and Annett have the benefit of supporting each other. This is also good advice, companions at least act in a predictable way. Again, there is a lot of humor as Adam and Annett meet some complete whackos.
The Hare Krishna Ashram in Argentina experience broke up the Adam-Annett team as far as further travel outside Germany. Annett was tired of not having creature comforts available. Adam went on to visit Chernobyl, a couple of micro-nations, and Romania. There is an interesting section on his return to his hometown in England. There are very good observations on travel in general, the idea that you may be able to go home again, and the very decent idea that adventures are everywhere. It is just a point of view.
If anything in the book is a spoiler, it is the details of a trip to North Korea. I won’t comment on it. It is worth reading for humor, philosophy, and information not generally known. I gave this four Amazon stars because the first part of the book was hilarious up until the time Annett went back to Germany. Adam traveling alone is not as interesting. But he does get his groove back so the novel ends on a high note (with humor) also.