The Red Rucksack is a travelogue that tells the story of a pharmacist who gives up his running business to travel solo around the world. He recounts his adventures and once in a while looks back at his life back home in Tasmania. I actually figured out where is Tasmania after reading this book.
Ben West takes you to Nepal, Mongolia, South America and a bit of Europe along with his Red Rucksack. His adventures while climbing various peaks in the Himalayas and then in South America make for a very interesting reading. In the Himalayas, he talks about his sickness and his challenges. But then eventually the view that makes it all look “Worth it”. In South America, his travels introduced me to the continent. The names, the landscapes, the transportation, the food. Introduction to the culture to a small extent.
Though Ben West talks about his Solo travels, he hardly finds himself solo. He easily makes friends on the go. And does shorter travels with them, hanging out with them and living in a strange kind of camaraderie. He even manages to find himself a girlfriend. A lawyer from Denmark and this story thread provide the much-needed romance to the story. These kinds of romances or love stories always bring out the role of destiny in our lives. I know a few couples who met just by the stroke of destiny and decided to share the rest of their lives.
The author spends a lot of chapters on his flying class experience. I do not enjoy this adventure, so this is the only part which bored me. I also got a feeling that maybe the author wrote a lot of this book during this period. Hence, the author got carried away a tad bit more about the recent happenings. At other places, he has chosen the episodes to share rather than every possible detail of the travel adventure.
Ben tries to figure out if he is a tourist or a traveler or pilgrim as these travels are supposed to be a major self-discovery expedition. And then chooses to call himself Wayfarer – a term that I heard for the first time. He also calls himself a hostel hugger – a term that he coined for people who travel the globe but don’t miss a single hostel bar night. I laughed at his description of McPiss – a term that he used to describe a situation where you use the Mcdonalds washrooms without actually buying anything. He discovers in France that Mcdonalds actually gives you a code with the receipt that you can use to open the washrooms – meaning you can’t use them unless you buy something. I learn this for the first time.
The language of The Red Rucksack, in general, is laced with humor. For example, when Ben tries to explain the effect of high altitudes, this is how he does – ‘Imagine waking at 3 AM inside a refrigerator with the worst hangover of your life. Inside the fridge is a treadmill. Now go running on it for 12 hours straight… with a plastic bag over your head’. He tells you the unspoken commandments of mountain expeditions – Thou shall not talk about work. One of his tips I am sure I am going to use sometimes is ‘If you sit alone at any restaurant that cares for its reputation, pull out a notepad and look around contemplatively whilst scribbling, you will receive amazing service’
I quite enjoyed reading the book. You take your call 🙂