It's Only the Himalayas is Sue Bedford's debut travelogue which regales us with her outrageous tales during a year spent backpacking with her bestie around the world. Packed full of hilarity, this is a book that will delight both older backpackers looking back nostalgically at misspent youths and those thinking about embarking on their own wild travels themselves.
Aged 23 and living with her parents after dropping out of university for the second time, Bedford isn't so much at a crossroads in her life but seriously questioning how things have gone so badly. When her best friend calls her and half-jokingly suggests that they both chuck everything in and head off for a year's travel, Bedford weighs up her not so many options and jumps in with both feet.
Planning to spend 12 months living out of their backpack with US$20,000 each, their itinerary is whittled down to a bunch of countries that are heavily frequented by backpackers, including Southern Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South East Asia. The mostly familiar spots where they travel, means that for those of us who have gone before, it's a welcome trip down memory lane and which makes it very easy to be swept along with the fun of it all.
Whether cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa, finding herself in an Ashram in India, trekking in the Himalayas with their Dads in Nepal or feeling the powdery white sand between their toes in The Philippines, there are plenty of awesome travel spots covered off to bring out the wanderlust in all of us. As you'd also expect from free-willed twenty-somethings, It's Only the Himalayas isn't short of other adventure stories of the more explicit kind. These include a combination of planes, toilets and the opposite sex, taking part in male underwear TV commercials and tons of other drunken escapades all to ensure that Bedford's backpacking year racks up loads of Facebook status points.
That's not to say that the writing gels in every instance. Some of the stories are a mite stilted/cliched and as the book progresses it does tend to degenerate towards mostly being retellings of drunken R-rated antics. However, these are told with such unrestrained excitement that I'd challenge all but the most cynical and boring of souls to not get caught up in them.
What also is refreshing, is that It's Only the Himalayas is told in an open and honest fashion and not all experiences are sugar coated. Hurling over the side of boats, killer hangovers and constantly having to deal with doses of the runs - all these normal gross out backpacking moments are not edited out.
It's Only the Himalayas is sort of like a backpacking Eat, Pray, Love spent with your bestie instead of searching for love. Actually, it's not really anything like it at all - it's much better and a real hoot. The books scales the heights of the best of backpacking books out there and is not found wanting. Whilst it is a quick and light read, there is so much fun packed into it, that the only disappointment is knowing that the end is rapidly approaching. Hopefully, Bedford has more material which she can share with us either from this, her first backpacking trip, or from her next.
If you're looking to get a different view on this wonderful book, consider checking out Travis Sherry's podcast on Extra Pack of Peanuts (EPOP is one of my all-time favourite podcasts) - it's Episode 251.
4 stars out of 5
Credit: Banner photo by Christian Haugen