Hilariously informative: the travel book of the year
Where do you go when there’s nowhere left to go?
Now that seven hundred million tourists leave home every year, there doesn’t seem to be a single patch of earth untouched by the tourist industry. Lager louts vomit on Mediterranean beaches, extreme athletes race up the Matterhorn, and blue-collar sex tourists head to Bangkok to hook up with under-aged girls.
Rather than fleeing the hordes, Taras Grescoe plunges into the ruts where the tourists are thickest. Starting at the tip of Spain’s Land End and finishing, nine months later, on the soldier-patrolled beaches of China’s End of the Earth, he crosses the entire Eurasian landmass, touring France using Michelin guides, taking the cure at Baden-Baden, stuffing his face on a cruise ship, and following the Lonely Planet crowd from India to Kathmandu. Along the way he tells the story of leisure travel – from the Grand Tour of old to the Cook’s tour of today, from ascetic religious pilgrimages to all-inclusive charters to tropical islands. Can a thirty-something Canadian writer survive bunking with a homophobic roommate on an If-This-Is-Tuesday bus tour? Partying with college-aged pub crawlers in Rome? Trekking among the opium-growing hilltribes of Thailand?
A hilarious on-the-road odyssey, The End of Elsewhere is also a brilliant history of world tourism. It’s a lament for the way we’ve turned the remotest corners of the world into places in which authenticity is a quaint performance put on by the locals. And it’s a superb account of how one compulsive traveller came to see that, in the end, you must go home again.
From the Hardcover edition.