On the Road

Having finished the second season of Game of Thrones, my current TV show of choice is An Idiot Abroad, a travel show hosted by Karl Pilkington, an insular Englishman who had never been anywhere but Wales and was perfectly content with that until his “friends” and producers of The Office enlist him to visit the Seven Wonders of the World. It’s amazing.

There are no pressed linen suits and Panama hats. No luxury accommodations, no “hidden gem” restaurants. No inside tips on the hottest clubs or chic boutiques. There are lots of squatty potties, fleabag hotels, and cramped overnight buses. Karl eats lots of weird stuff, but not out of an extreme sense of adventure à la Andrew Zimmern – he does his earnest best to choke down toad and lamb’s eyes because that’s all there is and he wants to be polite, while hating it the whole time. His so-called friends engineer all kinds of uncomfortable surprises for him – making him spend all day on a camel in Jordan, take wrestling lessons in Mexico, and get waxed in Brazil – and while he does a fair bit of complaining he mostly goes along with it. Here’s a sample:

I love this show for its total honesty. Travel can absolutely be rough, especially outside of Europe. The facilities and infrastructure can leave much to be desired. And travel is disorienting. The rest of the world is so different, in ways you don’t expect because it’s never occurred to you that there is any other way to do X than the way you do it at home. It’s not that Karl is never touched or fascinated by his new experiences, but he feels like a fish out of water the majority of the time and he’s completely upfront about it. I do believe that travel is enriching – I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t – but no one said it was always easy. No matter how open you are to new cultures and new experiences, sometimes you just want to go home where things are comfortable and make sense.