At the height of stress, I often choose trivia books over novels, because I’m not in the proper frame of mind to concentrate on plot, and I really can’t afford to read more than a few snippets at a time. Last week was pure madness (in my world), but one book got me through it: The Traveller’s Companion.

Whenever I could find time to just sit down and catch my breath, I’d open it and read a page or two, and it was quite a relaxing exercise, and by the end of the week, I had finished the book!

Think Publishing’s The Traveller’s Companion, edited by Georgina Newbery and Rhiannon Guy, is a compendium of little bits of knowledge about travel:


Useful tips and useless trivia

Which hat?

“When entering a temple or a shrine, even if you’re just braving the elements, a well-prepared traveller should always have a hat on standby. A strong canvas hat with a wide brim is good for all weathers, but will need some kind of tie to stop it flying off in strong winds. If you buy it slightly too big, you can line the top with a handkerchief to make it warmer. Line the band with the same handkerchief to act as a sweatband when the weather’s hot.”

Food Fjords

“The Norwegians are a hospitable people. Along the ancient trails and trekking routes through their forests are many comfortably appointed huts in which the passing traveller is welcome to stay the night — on the understanding that they leave the hut tidy and as well equipped as it was when they arrived. So, for instance, if you arrive to find there’s coffee, ham and cheese, you’re welcome to these as long as you replace them before you leave.”

Where is it safest to sit on an airplane?

“Some say the back is the safest, some say you should try and be far away from the engine. But the short answer is: there is no safest seat. Or at least not one that could be predicted before the accident. The place of impact can be the most important factor, but this is impossible to foresee. In some cases, for example in heavy smoke or fire, the ability to stay calm and remove yourself from the aircraft is much more important than where you are sitting.”


Humorous anecdotes

French Fried

“In 1950, French senator and former witch doctor Victor Biaka-Boda travelled to the Ivory Coast, which he represented, to assess the electorate’s concerns and drum up their support. They obviously liked the look of him because they ate him, but it’s not clear whether he went down well.”

Passages from travel-related literature

“The best way of travel, however, if you aren’t in any hurry at all, if you don’t care where you are going, if you do n’t like to use your legs, if you don’t want to be annoyed at all by any choice of directions, is in a balloon. In a balloon, you can decide only when to start, and usually when to stop. The rest is left entirely to nature.”  — William Pene du Bois, The Twenty-one Balloons

Lists

Travelling Books (travelling classics that made it to the BBC Big Read list)

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
48. Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
63. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles DICKENS
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
90. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
101. Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome
146. The Green Mile, Stephen King
164. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
173. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway


Quotations

“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matter in the end.” — Ursula K. LeGuin

“All who wonder are not lost.” — JRR Tolkien, creator of the Middle Earth

“For my part, I travel not to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” — Robert Louis Stevenson, writer

I read many trivia compilations on a regular basis, but few sustain my interest from start to finish; I usually bank them for a month or so, reading scraps whenever I feel like it. But this one kept me reading continuously to the end. It’s an interesting compilation that’s sure to delight trivia junkies like me, whether you’re toting it in your carry-on baggage or reading it more out of wishful thinking (also like me). It truly is, a great way to discover, what the book calls the “weird wonders of the wanderer’s world.”

***

The Traveller’s Companion, hardcover with dustjacket, 5/5 stars

Book #112 of 2010

*cover photo from sxc.hu

[amazonify]::omakase::300:250[/amazonify]