Whenever I read a Bill Bryson book I feel like I’m in great company. He travels the globe and doesn’t take himself too seriously, so his writings about his adventures are always funny, sarcastic and a delight to read.
In Neither here nor there he tells us about his travels around Europe while also reminiscing about his first time in the continent years before, and how things have changed or how they’ve stayed the same. He makes observations about everything and so many parts of the books are hilarious and lighthearted. I could relate so much whenever he talked about the amazing feeling of arriving in a new city everyday, taking long train rides, sitting at a cafe on a Tuesday afternoon and watch people go about their lives, while you’re absorbing it all in a wonderful state of pure bliss. Traveling to a different country requires us to be aware of little daily rituals we don’t even pay attention to anymore. It’s like learning how to live all over again. How do people cross the street? Am I smiling too much? How do I say thank you? And these little struggles are all too exciting to ever become a real concern.
To balance that out, Bryson also does a lot of whining and complaining throughout the book, which is interesting specially coming from an experienced traveler like himself. Anyone who’s traveled around a bit knows that it’s not always easy. You have to be patient and adaptable. You have to be open and wiling to compromise on a few things. Sometimes the weather is gonna be awful, the hotel won’t be cozy, the trains might be late, it can be hard to find a place to exchange money, but it’s all part of the experience and you just have to embrace it. And then there’s the people, and the cultural differences. I know he’s just being funny, but sometimes he just falls into stereotypes and spends a lot of time going on and on about train connections and hotel bookings. The book is from 1991 and it’s crazy to think how much the technicalities of traveling have changed. He spends half the time standing in line at tourist information offices waiting for an assistant to book hotels for him. That’s insane! And the poor guy was hungry half the time because he could never find a place to eat.
Anyway, the book is funny so if you want an easy, entertaining take on Europe you’ll enjoy it. Now, if you want to actually learn about the history and culture of those countries you’re better off picking another book. And if you want to read a real funny Bryson book, go for I’m a stranger here myself. That one is absolutely hilarious.