Don’t you wish travel guides told you more of what a country is really like, and less of what to eat and where to stay? And don’t you wish travel “adventures” sounded a little more like something you could do yourself, and a little less like something out of a Hollywood script session? Wouldn’t it be nice if all guidebooks had a uniform standard of reference, so that a ten-dollar room in Thailand and a fifty dollar room in Mali were not equally referred to as “cheap,” “budget,” or “economy,” especially when it defies logic in more ways than one (Mali is a poorer country, but prices are higher, and the ten-dollar room is probably of better quality then the fifty)? And wouldn’t it be nice if travel narratives contained a little more travel and a little less narrative?
Hardie Karges accomplishes all this and more in his first full-length travel book “Hypertravel: 100 Countries in 2 Years (A Backpacker’s Guide to the World and the Soul). A combination guide and narrative, veteran blogger and traveler Karges sets off to see the rest of the world that he has yet to see, almost three-fourths of the world’s sovereign countries, and he takes us with him. Some two years later, when the dust has finally cleared, he has visited some 100 countries, an increase to his total from 55 to 139 (some countries he had already visited). But Karges is no mere country-counter, mechanically going from place to place in the most supercilious manner.
Equal parts writer, folk-art expert, philosopher, and inveterate traveler, Karges gives a unique and unparalleled glimpse into many of the world’s most overlooked and interesting countries. That’s the reason to visit them all, right? And hyper-travel is not only an intense level of travel to visit places and things, but time travel, too. Having traveled for some thirty-five years, Karges can reflect on the way things used to be, too, no small benefit in a world that can change rapidly within a generation’s time. He does all this in language that snaps and crackles, equally at home discussing cuisine or culture, history or linguistics, at times evoking the humor of Bryson or the confessional tone of Gilbert, more often the vision of Matthiessen or the poetic rhapsody of Kerouac, always with the historical breadth of Michener and the rigor and discipline of Theroux.
If there is one overriding message to Karges’s travel ethic that sometimes runs counter to that of others, it’s “don’t wander aimlessly; see it all…with intent and purpose.” In this world-view travel becomes something of a vision quest, diverse, bountiful, and open to all. The epiphany is your reward. Too bad we had to wait so long for a work like this. While other guys in their mid-fifties are counting their grandkids and their 401k’s, Karges is looking at maps and finally “getting serious about writing.” Travel literature may never be the same. The book is now available on Amazon and elsewhere.
p.s. When it comes time for the e-book version of this book, it may very well be the first to offer an “electronic re-mix version,” re-formatted as a guide rather than a narrative. Stay tuned.