Friday, April 13, 2018

A review of Adam Fletcher's Don't Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea—one man’s quest to lose himself and find everyone else in the world’s strangest places

If you've ever read my main blog, you might know that I enjoy reading and reviewing books.  Every once in awhile, I read a book that I think should be reviewed on my travel blog.  Yesterday, during a particularly obnoxious bout of Internet non-connectivity, I decided to finish reading my latest book, Adam Fletcher's Don't Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea—one man’s quest to lose himself and find everyone else in the world’s strangest places.

I'm pretty sure I purchased this book during a booze and boredom fueled buying binge.  I have a tendency to get carried away with downloads sometimes, especially if I've been drinking or am just feeling idle.  Consequently, I have loads of books and albums waiting to be read and heard for the first time.  In the case of Mr. Fletcher's book, I actually got around to reading soon after purchasing.  His book was just published in February of this year; I bought it on April Fool's Day, and now I am ready to review it.  Meanwhile, I bought Tony Danza's book four years ago and it's still gathering dust on my Kindle app.

I'm sure Fletcher's title was what intrigued me.  I love reading about exotic travel locations, particularly if they are to places I'd rather not go myself.  North Korea fascinates me, but you won't see me hopping a plane to visit there.  I might be tempted to visit Chernobyl, although I'm sure the idea of it would make me nervous.  I have never wanted to visit China, but I love reading about other people who have done it.  Nope...  despite my two years in the Peace Corps, I think I'm pretty much a comfort traveler.  I've squatted over enough shitholes and experienced enough traveler's diarrhea to last me the rest of my life.

Adam Fletcher grew up in Thetford, which is a small hamlet in East Anglia, England.  That was another thing about him that intrigued me.  My earliest memories are of Mildenhall Air Force Base, which is where my father had his final Air Force assignment before he retired in 1978.  Thetford is not that far from Mildenhall.  I've actually visited Thetford.  In fact, I visited the area just two years ago, having not been there since 1978.  It seems Fletcher had similar feelings about his hometown that I do about mine.

From age eight, I grew up in Gloucester, Virginia.  During my most recent visit to England, I visited the Mildenhall area and noticed that Gloucester looks a whole lot like it.  I couldn't wait to leave Gloucester when I was growing up; likewise, Fletcher was keen to leave Thetford and visit strange and dangerous places around the world.  Also like me, Fletcher found out that going back "home" can be a worthwhile and illuminating experience.  I haven't been back to Gloucester in almost eight years, but Fletcher's tales of visiting Thetford after many years away make me think it may be time to visit my old stomping grounds.

Adam Fletcher and I have one more thing in common.  We both live in Germany.  He lives in Berlin with his girlfriend, Annett, and I live near Stuttgart with my long suffering husband, Bill.  Adam and Annett are apparently confirmed significant others.  Annett doesn't want to get married because her parents got divorced.  And Adam is apparently one of those guys who doesn't want to commit, but isn't averse to presenting his significant other with a big rock.  That's probably why he likes to visit odd places like Transnistria, a strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine that considers itself its own country, even if no one else recognizes it.  I'm sure I had heard of Transnistria before I read Adam Fletcher's book, but I know I'd never read about anyone who'd actually been there.

Don't Go There is full of witty stories about Fletcher's travels, first with Annett, and then by himself when Annett finally had enough of his odd tastes in travel destinations.  He braves Israel and Palestine, subjecting himself to intense security screenings.  He attempts to visit the world's "newest" country, Liberland, which is basically a swamp in the middle of a river between Serbia and Croatia, only to be headed off by police in boats.  He's also been to Istanbul.

Actually, I really enjoyed reading about Adam's time in Turkey's most popular city.  I went there myself in 1996, having spent three non-stop days traveling on a bus from Armenia.  I have been on the street where Adam and Annett found themselves confronted by rioting crowds.  While my visit wasn't quite as dramatic as Adam's was, I did end up clocking one guy who brazenly grabbed my boob while I was at the bus station, waiting for a bus to Bulgaria.

Adam Fletcher's Don't Go There was mostly a very enjoyable read for me.  I found myself vicariously traveling along with Adam and thanking God that I'm not broke and in my 20s anymore.  Adam is himself in his mid 30s, but clearly enjoys going to strange places so the rest of us don't have to.  He also seems like a likable fellow, even if he admits that when it comes to his friends, he isn't exactly "committed".  That seems to be a theme in his life-- he embraces the odd and unappealing and rejects the safe and familiar.  By the end of the book, he seems slightly more settled.

If you like travel books and good stories, especially ones that only cost $4 on Kindle, I would highly recommend Adam Fletcher's Don't Go There.  I think it's well worth the price of admission.




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