I love travel books. In fact, I’m currently reading one about a single woman from Missouri, Kira Salak, who paddled up the Niger River in Africa from Old Segou to Timbuktu alone sometime in the 1st decade of the 20th century. I recently finished a very old book by Michael Crichton, who died in 2008 from cancer. Among his many books was Jurassic Park, but he also wrote a book called Travels. I found it in a used bookstore several years ago, but for some reason didn’t read it until now.
Now I understand why. It was only one-third about actual travel. The 1st 80 or so pages was about Crichton’s experiences in medical school. The essays in the middle part were about his definitely exotic travels to unusual destinations between 1971 and 1986. The final part concerned his explorations in spiritualism and New Age subjects, some of which he described as “a lot of hippie-dippy airy-fairy baloney” on page 303. Because his travel experiences were thoughtfully rendered, I really enjoyed them. For example, he visited Singapore before it became like any other big city, the most expensive metropolis in the world, and a movie set (Crazy Rich Asians).
I rushed through all the stuff in Crichton’s book except for the travel essays even though I rather enjoyed reading about his medical school experiences while he was trying to decide whether or not to desert medicine for full-time writing and movie-making. He made the right decision. He was an excellent writer/describer with individualistic ideas about travel, and Crichton wrote about offbeat places like the Pyramid of the Magician and Baltistan.
To illustrate his talent, here is my favorite episode. While walking in the jungle on the Malaysian island of Pahang, he noticed he was suddenly surrounded by flowers. He was in a vast jungle in bloom. Then he realized that he was also surrounded by bees. His companion Dennis told him to remain calm because the bees were only on him because of his salty sweat. “They will not sting,” Dennis assured. However, Crichton wrote, “I feel them crawling over my cheeks and forehead. I feel them in my ears, and hear the hum of their many wings. I see them crawling on the frames of my glasses. I feel them tickling as they walk on my eyelids. I feel them clustered on my lips. I am no longer relaxed.”