Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Backpacker's Guide to Medications, Meditations & Men

April 12, 2016

A few weeks ago, a friend in publishing (that's right - I have connections) told me I would love a wonderful new author she's been working with. Being the die-hard cynic that I am, I told her where to shove her opinion, and set off to make my own judgments about the book - It's Only the Himalayas: And Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker.

My thought after the first few pages went something along the lines of "Well fuck. Now I have to tell Tori she was right". Sue Bedford - a waitress from Toronto - doesn't know what she's doing with her life. A feeling I immediately connected with. While I like to complain about my aimless existence to anyone who will listen (and many of those who won't), Sue made a plan. Accompanied by her gal pal Sara (and a few other less-committed friends, including Kendra - who naturally seems like the coolest member of the gang), she sets off to find herself overseas. On the way to self discovery, she has what can only be described as an amazing-and-life-changing-probably-because-she-contracted-at-least-one-disease experience. And I'm mad jealous about it.

One of my favorite things about Sue's writing is her lack of sugar coating. So many travel writers drone on and on about the magical wonders of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I like to hear about cherry blossoms and clown fish as much as the next gal, but let’s be frank. You’re probably admiring those cherry blossoms while taking a shit in the wilderness, and you’re probably looking at those clown fish while vomiting over the side of a boat. But we never get to hear about the gory details! Luckily for us, the voice of truth has written a book, and it's great. Between the bed bugs, tent floods, sloppy hookups and mouthfuls of AIDS, Susan Bedford captured my full attention from start to finish – much to the dismay of my waiting Netflix list.

While every single one of her misadventures were impressive/horrifying/hilarious, I connected with a few on a personal level. Because I'm a selfish white girl, I'm going to review the chapters of the book that really stood out to me - for better or for worse.

Wilderness Women - Africa

Susan’s travels throughout the African wilderness were reminiscent of my own – 80% driving, 10% night time noises and 10% actual animal sightings. While my African trip was paid for by my 50 year old WASPY parents (meaning daily cocktails and bug free beds), Susan’s tales of wilderness woe made me want to huddle up in my duvet and never leave – apparently backpacking in  Africa isn’t for the faint of heart. Almost everything Susan described made my skin crawl and wonder – how the hell did those Swedish Barbies fare so well? I can rough it with the best of 'em, but the minute you put me in a bedbug infested tent, I’m gonna be on the next elephant outta dodge Namibia. I couldn’t help but feel bad for Charlie – a MONTH stuck with 5 young girls (who synced up no doubt), having to cater to their every brainless question and needy request. Hard pass.

Noodles & Nausea in Nepal
I reached the chapter on Sue’s adventures in Nepal around lunch time. For those of you about to start this book, I highly recommend not eating chicken noodle soup – like I was – when reading this chapter. Just don’t. Nothing will seem less appetizing to you than a steaming bowl of noodles after finishing this chapter. Seriously though – stick with a sandwich. Although her journey sounds incredible, it doesn’t sound appealing in the slightest – which again is a testament to Sue’s lack of sugary sweet coating. It would have been very easy to focus on the sweeping landscape and fresh mountain air, but instead she gives us a more truthful recount of her trek – shitting on stilts and almost committing accidental patricide. Nepal sounds as challenging as it is beautiful. The most backpacking I've ever done was a weekend trek, during which I distinctly remember being simultaneously too hot and too cold...and that's in the relatively even temperatures of the Rocky Mountains. Color me impressed.

Adultery in Asia
If Susan’s description of Africa made me want to never leave my bed, her poetic portrayal of Vietnam and the Philippines made me want to pack up my life and become a pirate. I mean, I already have the booty...HA! Breathtaking views, shipwrecks, and studs? Yes please. Man 'o man  - the Philippines and Thailand sound fun. Sue’s recount of her sexcapades around Asia strongly reminded me of what I wrote in my journal while living in residence during my first year of University…or would have written if I ever sobered up. Sloppy threesomes, dangerous substance combinations, little sleep and frequent flirting – ah the simple life. Sue’s stories about the Full Moon Festival match those I’ve been told by even the most tame of my friends who’ve attend. Ie - sounds like a blast and I want to go. I was giggling out loud reading about the various (and often stereotypical) men the girls met over the course of their travels. Call me slutty, but I feel like this trip wouldn't have been nearly as fun as a taken woman. 

I give mad props to Sue for openly writing about every detail of her trip. Not only the less glamorous side of travel, but also the binge drinking and sexual encounters. They're A) entertaining as hell and B) demonstrate ownership of her actions and body. To those of you who might look down your nose at a girl who hooks up overseas (you'll know who you are by that big stick lodged up your rear end), this book may not be for you. Try Little House on the Prairie.

My personal takeaways from It’s Only the Himalayas they would be these:

  • Dreadlocks universally cool
  • Banging in an airplane bathroom IS actually possible
  • Indian men are hung
  • I’m sheltered

I give It’s Only the Himalayas a solid 5 mushroom milkshakes out of 5 vaginal blow darts.


  1. OMG.

    This review is amazing. And this book sounds ridiculous! At least you made it sound that way. But it's a positive ridiculous.It sounds like a hoot and an adventure to read, which is kind of the point, I assume.

    Thanks for making me laugh today. I needed it. lol

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! You really should pick the book up - constant laughs!