Book Review: Neither Here Nor There

Bill Bryson, an American travel writer, recounts his travels through Europe in the early 90s. He journeys from Hammerfest, Norway to Istanbul, Turkey while retracing an infamous backpacking trip of the 70s with an unforgettable high school acquaintance name Stephen Katz. The story of the original trip is documented in Bryson’s, A Walk in the Woods (which I have not read).

Neither Here Nor There provides three things:
1. Condemnation of Stephen Katz as a travel partner (and maybe as a person)
2. A comparison of how Europe changed over 2 decades (which is probably defunct information now that almost 3 more decades have passed since publication)
3. Laughter if you’ve ever traveled out of your home country and can relate to the hilarity of culture shocks via language barriers, exchange rates, and living out of a suitcase.

“You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile effort to recapture the comforts that you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.”

Neither Here No There, page 289

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I nostalgically loved the descriptions of many places I’ve traveled through. Bryson does a great job bringing the reader into his transportation, lodging, dining, and touring experiences. However, I thought that there were too many graphically unpleasant descriptions of red light districts and distasteful anecdotes from his trip previous with Katz for the book to get a positive stamp of my approval.

This book is for you if you also like: Europe, Bill Bryson’s other titles, or the TV shows An Idiot Abroad and The Amazing Race.

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