• Ananya Ak

The Travel Gods Must be Crazy Review



I’ve always wanted to travel the world. I want to skydive at least once in my life, go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, float in the Dead Sea, see the Northern Lights, and go to Antarctica. I’ve imagined a YJHD-like trip with friends (which so didn’t happen). I’ve also planned out a whole ZNMD thing in my head, and it’s not too late for that to happen.

Of course, like a true millennial (or am I a Gen Zer? I always get confused), I don’t want to go to the “touristy” places. Offbeat is my thing! Not that I’ve ever gone to an offbeat location and had an adventure. Sigh.

Anyway…

I’ve often thought about just abandoning all my career plans, picking up a backpack, and leaving home. But, well…I don’t have the guts. Or the strong visa. Or the money. Or…well, you get the point.

Well, Sudha Mahalingam, the author of The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy probably went through the same dilemma as I did. Only, she had the guts. What she didn’t have was an excuse. Because in those times, when travelling wasn’t sexy, especially for women, an excuse is a must.

But the travel bug never left her, and when she married someone who hated leaving the comfort of home, she did the only thing a gal could do – she became an energy researcher!

She now had a legitimate reason to travel to obscure places – because all the energy conferences were in obscure places!

She is, quite literally, the Indian pioneer of offbeat travel. She’s gone sky diving, trekked in the Himalayas, gone white-water rafting in our very own Ganga, and much more. She’s the person I want to be when I grow up (although I never want to be an energy researcher).

But here’s the thing. Offbeat travel isn’t as fun as it’s made out to be. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, and Sudha Mahalingam knows that better than anyone. Her adventures have mostly been misadventures, and she’s not afraid to admit that. In her own words,

“The traveller’s is a tough life calling for grit and an ability to keep one’s cool in the most trying of circumstances.”

She continues,

“…you get journeys that become unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. But if you retain your sense of humour, it can be fun too, at least in retrospect.”

But that’s exactly what she did. She retained her sense of humour (which is wicked) and her guts, and she still hasn’t lost her love for travel, despite all the trouble she’s had!

Her book, The Travel Gods Must be Crazy (named, I can only assume, after the crazy hilarious movie Gods Must be Crazy) is about all the wacky (mis)adventures in the exotic lands she’s visited. Like being detained in Jordan for some strange reason, a terrifying encounter in Kashmir, and going on a difficult trek as a 55-year-old woman (she huffed and puffed a lot, apparently).

Usually, travel blogs and books about travel talk about the good stuff. They talk about all the struggles, of course, but they also say that it was all worth it in the end. And when you read about those struggles, you think, “Oh. That’s an adventure I want.”

Not Ms Mahalingam. She doesn’t mince words at all, and she doesn’t sugarcoat her experiences either. She spices them up with her unique brand of humour (I laughed a lot while reading the book), but she says it like it is. And rather than describing her incredible, beautiful, awesome experiences (which I’m sure she had), she shares the bad ones.

She talks about how she was terrified throughout her sky-diving stint, how she “almost died” (which I think is an exaggeration) rafting, how she didn’t enjoy the discomfort of trekking at all, and every other misadventure she had. Her goal, according to a newspaper article I read, is to show people that travel is not always as wonderful as it seems. There are a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs, that a traveller faces, and she wanted to talk about the downs.

All in all, the book is amazing. It’s a light read and I laughed all the way through. It’s interesting because who doesn’t want to know about epic fails (and that’s what they are)? I loved the book.

What I loved:

  • The honesty. Nothing she’s written looks “too good to be true”. The smattering of travel pictures in the book are also not photoshopped to death.

  • The humour. I love a dry sense of humour more than anything else. And the author survived all her epic fails without losing her enthusiasm for travel, only because of her tongue-in-cheek humour.

  • It’s a light read. I don’t much like sad, dark, heavy books. When I read, I want to pick up something that’ll soothe me or make me laugh, not make me cry. And this book made me laugh.

You should read it if:

  • You’ve dreamed of travelling the world and imagine an Instagram-perfect trip

  • You like a light read

  • You enjoy a dry sense of humour

You may not like it if:

  • You prefer fiction. This is firmly in the non-fiction space.

  • You prefer soulful, life-changing philosophy books or dark, heavy stories that’ll make you cry

Verdict:

I loved the book. It was an interesting, fun read that taught me not to fall for the picture-perfect travel blogs. Also, the stories were all pretty random, so I could put the book down at any time without feeling that nail-biting anticipation about what happens next...

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