Thank heavens for travel books, which allow squeamish, shower-requiring sissies like me to have vicarious adventures while avoiding all sorts of uncomfortable actual experiences. (Delhi belly, typhoid shots and flying Air Rarotonga come to mind.). Travel books also have allowed me to discover that these experiences can be really funny, when one is reading about them happening to someone else.
So here is a list of my favorite funny travel books, all of which made me laugh heartily as I sat in my air-conditioned living room, drinking a pasteurized beverage.
“Dave Barry Does Japan” (Dave Barry, 1992)
If you love Dave Barry’s humor as much as I do, this will be the funniest travel book you will ever read. Plus you will learn about that Japanese culinary favorite, corn pizza.
“The Sex Lives of Cannibals” (Maarten J. Troost, 2004)
Troost and his wife spend two years adjusting to the local lifestyle on the thoroughly unglamorous island of Tarawa in the South Pacific. A virtual anti-paradise, Tarawa provides the author with endless bizarre, frustrating and just plain gross stories (relevant detail: there’s no sewage system on the island). Troost manages to be hilarious while conveying genuine affection for his easy-going hosts.
“In a Sunburned Country” (Bill Bryson, 2000)
A classic Australian travel memoir by one of the best and funniest writers in the business. It made me (briefly) want to visit Australia.
Anything by Tim Cahill
In the late 1980s, Cahill—a co-founder of Outside magazine—popularized a style of travel writing that might be described as “highly literate crazed adventure-junkie.” Cahill is an old guy now (by some miracle!), but his early essays are as spellbinding and perversely funny as ever. Read them in collections like “A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg” (1989), “Pass the Butterworms” (1997) and “Hold the Enlightenment” (2002).
So to all you road warriors out there who just LOVE to travel, I have this to say: I’ll be at home reading. Have a good time, and don’t forget the Imodium.