Hardie Karges, the author of Hypertravel – 100 Countries in 2 Years is a man on a mission.
His goal is to go to every country in the world. And over a two year period, he manages to knock 100 countries off his list.
His self published, 300 plus page book, is not your typical travel guide. You won’t find the names of restaurants and hotels to stay in, nor must see lists of cathedrals and museums.
But what you will find, are the countries that sound like they’re worth a visit – because they’ve kept their character and haven’t been degraded by mass tourism. Or perhaps the people are friendly, the food is good and the WiFi signal is strong.
You’ll also learn which countries don’t make the cut. Hardie is brutally honest in his assessments both for and against a country.
Yemen is a great example.
To me, it conjures up images of the desert and terrorists though perhaps not in that order.
For Hardie it’s the real thing.
It’s a cross between the Bolivian altiplano and the Grand Canyon….The Arabian Nights are alive and well in Sana’a….incredible, fairy tale architecture that looks like nothing so much as icing on the cake with lots of swoops and swirls and extra sugar on the side. He goes on to say that matching belts and daggers are the height of men’s fashion.
I enjoyed the information that I got out of his Yemen trip but some countries barely get a passing glance, though to be fair there are a few he visits in under a day. Overall I liken his take on a country to the almost instantaneous gut reaction we get in a blink of the eye. He likes it or he doesn’t. Occasionally he changes his mind but we get a pretty good read on a country when he first enters it.
Hardie’s book is like a running commentary on where he’s at, plans for the next trip and the state of his marriage to a Thai woman who’s back in LA. His style takes a little getting used to. It’s as though he’s thinking out loud – and transcribing those thoughts onto paper. But about half way into the book I really warmed to his style, his plans and wondered what his take would be on various countries I’d either been to or would like to see.
Much of his time on the road is spent organizing bus and train tickets onward or more basic things like finding a place to sleep for the night, a meal, or a WiFi signal. Although he’s masterful at booking tickets online, and getting a good deal, some of those sections I found a bit tedious.
But that’s not to degrade his uncanny knack for getting to what the heart of the country is about. Hardie is a smart man with a keen eye for detail. He effortlessly weaves in information about culture, people, traditions and music.
I do wish he’d included a map at the beginning of every section he travels. Perhaps that’s my bias because I love maps and being able to put a country in geographical context.
And just for the record, here are a few of the places he has nice things to say about:
- Uruguay is pretty sweet, like Argentina without (much) attitude. Get off the ferry from Buenos Aires and the first thing you notice is how quiet it is. The second thing you notice is how nice everyone is.
- Paramaribo (in Suriname) is a traveler’s dream – one of those little unwashed gems….strikingly beautiful and unique.
- Antigua is the better Caribbean destination in general, more natural than St. Lucia, more developed than Dominica, with people effusively friendly.
- Tunisia isn’t really working for me for some reason. Maybe it’s the weather or the large ratio of tourists to locals, always a recipe for dissatisfaction to me.
- I could write the guidebook on Dijibouti in one word:”sucks”.
- In South Africa you can’t take your safety for granted anywhere any time, especially if you’re traveling.
The book is packed with real pearls of wisdom. It would be a great investment if you’re heading off on a big round the world type of trip or you’re traveling to less well known countries.