Elliott Hester

One of the highlights of my day yesterday was plunking myself down in one of the massive leather armchairs at Zoka and cracking open Elliott Hester's second book, "Adventures of a Continental Drifter: An Around-the-World Excurion into Weirdness, Danger, Lust, and the Perils of Street Food". Hester's first book, "Plane Insanity" was a hilarious collection of stories about his many years working as a flight attendant and is mandatory reading for anyone who takes delight in tales about misbehaving humans.

So, I treated myself to not one, but TWO big cups of delicious Panamian coffee (Clover-brewed), propped my feet up on the hearth of the fireplace and spent a good two hours reading. I did this not long after hammering out my somewhat whiny, semi-depressing post about life and memories and whatnot and felt better immediately. It wasn't long before I was laughing aloud as I read Hester's excellent travel stories.

From the jacket:

In October 2002, Elliott Hester sold his car, abandoned his apartment, and took off alone on a trip around the world, during which he drifted to more than fifty destinations. Elliott's tales aobut his travels range from the bizarre to the hilarious to the flat-out shocking. Travel with him as he:

  • Chases off transvestites in the South Pacific.
  • Gets drunk on Estonian moonshine at the maker's eightieth birthday
  • Impersonates Samuel L. Jackson at the 38th International Film Festivl in the
    Czech Republic.
  • Ponders the Finnish tradition of sprinting from a steamy sauna to plunge
    into the frigid Baltic Sea -- naked!
  • And much more...

Hester is a talented writer, no doubt, but it helps that his subject matter is so engrossing. The things this man has seen, the people he has encountered, and the embarrassments that he has suffered basically write themselves. Some of the stories can be a little dull -- oh no, his roomate snores! Whatever will he do? -- but others are hysterical. One of my favorite stories from the ones I read yesterday involved him peeing himself prior to boarding a flight from Buenos Aires to Miami. He had no change of clothes. Another excellent tale was about the Argentinian woman he met on a lengthy bus ride. His description of her breath as he moved in to kiss her had me laughing out loud. But there's more to the stories than just humor. It's not only travel stories, but it's travel stories from a single black male traveling the world on his own -- something people don't see too often in many parts of the world. And he acknowledges this and also does a superb job of explaining away their preconceptions and prejudices, as well as his own.

I haven't read the entire book yet, but I will probably have it done this week (which would make 3 books in three weeks, a record for me!). And once I'm done with the book, I'm going to straight to this page of his website and continue reading his more recent stories. He hasn't stopped travelling since departing on his trip five years ago and has maps of where he's been for each year. Click the name of the city to read an essay about that particular stop in his neverending travels.

No comments: