Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
Carl Hoffman, you must have outdone yourself on this one. Seeking out the world’s most dangerous forms of transportation while traveling to some of the craziest places? Please sir, give me more; this is by far the most outrageous RTW trip anyone has ever attempted.
Rightfully named The Lunatic Express, Carl basically went on an extended suicide mission, or more likely, a game of transportation roulette. So what if 3 people had already died that day on the Mumbai trains; he still wanted to experience the chaos for himself, and he did so in a way that brought him (and the reader) face to face with culture, the people, as well as the harsh reality of what daily risk some parts of the world deal with just to get to work on time.
We have it so good living a life where our buses run on schedules, our planes rarely crash and our ferries almost never sink. Being in a developed world full of money, we never truly think about the underlayer that has to put their life in danger by taking low-grade death traps to get… anywhere. Sure, riding the chicken buses of Central and South America is almost a novelty for backpackers wanting a little excitement and authenticity, but how many times have you actually thought about checking the baldness of those tires before hopping on board?
Reading The Lunatic Express will definitely get you to question vehicle safety standards while on the road, so I do suggest not reading it while on the train (like I did), in a car or on a plane to name a few. And, if you can, it is best to not dwell on the fact that you may have flown Aeroflot from Ukraine to Moscow to Kyrgyzstan in 2008. Who knew I was that much of a gambler?!
Beyond the facts, Carl gives us so much more. As a traveler, I could somewhat relate to his personal story; the one where travel became like a drug, but for him it was so much so that he lost touch with himself and what was important in his real life while seeking it out. I think with many travelers, we all have a sense of needing to experience more, and this sometimes leaves us taking for granted what we already have available to us.
However, the trip did lead Carl to realize this downfall, and when he finally had the time to think about his own life and why he was doing what he was doing, he made a lovely little quote that every traveler traveling for the sake of travel should think about:
“Travel was only worthwhile when your eyes were fresh, when it surprised you and amazed you and made you think about yourself in a new way. You couldn’t travel forever. When you stopped seeing, when you lost your curiosity and openness to the world it was time to return to your starting point and see where you stood.”
The Lunatic Express is a book I cannot go without recommending to any off-the-beaten-path travelers I know. From the superb writing and captivating storyline, to the chaos and intrigue of a world unknown, the reader will surely want more. Thank you, Carl, for sharing it all with us.
If you would like to learn more about Carl Hoffman and The Lunatic Express, please visit the website or follow @lunaticcarl on Twitter. You can purchase a fresh copy of the new book by visiting Amazon or many other sellers.