The pretension of Albert Podell’s extraordinary transport book tells it all: Around a World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth. There is no other book like this one and, certainly, no other traveler like Podell. Over a duration of fifty years, he done seventy-two trips and visited 196 countries, including several that no longer exist. The initial was in 1962, when he visited Canada. A year later, he went abroad for a initial time and visited Spain and France. The final trips, between 2011 and 2013, were taken categorically to blemish a remaining countries from his list: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and finally—after countless progressing attempts—Angola. Some countries frequency assent tourists entry; others were undergoing impassioned domestic turmoil, creation transport really complicated, let alone risky.
Podell didn’t have an every-country-goal until 2000. For many years, his transport messenger was Harold Stephens, famous as Steve. Podell (who lerned as a lawyer) hold a extensive position as an editor during Playboy that supposing him with a certain volume of flexibility; he saved adequate income for what mostly became prolonged and really costly trips (dozens of aeroplane flights); he frequency stayed in up-scale hotels yet sought, instead, obtuse facilities; he ate each kind of food possible and some not imaginable; and he came tighten to genocide several times. The extremes of a continue also made his travels: thirty-three days on a Sahara, though ever saying a cloud; thirty-three days of sleet in a South Pacific. “Extreme travel” is a best approach to report what he mostly endured. He had to learn what to take along with him: food supplements, H2O catharsis tablets, and mixed kinds of antibiotics to discuss usually three.
What constitutes a nation for Podell? How did he brand a 196 countries he indispensable to visit? “Hotmail lets we register your e-mail comment from a list of 242 ‘countries/territories.’” He says that places that emanate banking (the Isle of Jersey) or postage stamps (Pitcairn Island) are not indispensably countries. He suspicion a United Nations’ list of members competence be a arguable guide, yet Taiwan and Vatican City are not members. Yet, after many thought, he went with a UN list of 193 countries, and Vatican City, Taiwan, and Kosovo, equaling 196 countries, though he visited countless other territories. we positively wouldn’t oppose with that figure given there’s substantially no one else alive who has visited so many places. Once he set his guidelines, afterwards he had to get to those places.
What we review in Podell’s account is a array of mini-journeys, describing many of his trips in marathon terminology. These trips were not simply to set feet in a nation (or an airport) and supplement a name to a list, yet in many cases he spent several days with a satisfactory volume of bearing to areas besides a large cities. The initial vital trip, in 1965, took him to Andorra, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia, many of it pushing over land. The hair-raising practice also began on this journey, generally pushing from Morocco opposite North Africa.
In that year (as good as many later), all of these countries compulsory visas, mostly a entirely severe exercise. Corrupt etiquette officials, policemen and soldiers perfectionist bribes during check points, terrible roads, automatic breakdowns of Podell and Steve’s vehicles, land mines,
and potholes contributed to a chaos. In Tunisia he quotes internal amusement about a latter. “Q. What do we do when we come to a pothole? A. Honk, in box somebody is in it.” The hawkers everywhere would not leave them alone, including on one arise when a sincerely ominous African asked about an American lady temporarily roving with them, “I wish to buy that lady from you. It was utterly a plea removing out of a offer. As a indicate of fact, it should be remarkable that women mostly trafficked with him, typically referred to by usually a initial name. In Ecuador he refers to one of them as “Amy—Jamie’s successor,” and afterwards continues his story. He’s utterly a ladies’ man.
And afterwards there’s a food—not a crazy things Podell ate in nation after country—but an incident, such as this, in a grill in Alexandria: “The soup was indigestible, a salad unchewable, a bread unbreakable, a beef uncuttable—and a check unbelievable. We were charged 50 percent above a already high prices on a menu because, a waiter explained, it was an indoor dish and we had eaten outdoors. We were also charged additional for a bread, additional for a butter, and additional for a sugarine and salt. Extra for a tablecloth. And additional for a integrate of flowers one of a peddlers [circling around them] had filched from a vase on a table. To this were combined fees and taxes, which, a manager told us with a true face, were for such essentials as a waiter’s old-age pension, repainting a kitchen, improving Egypt’s change of payments, and widening a Suez Canal.” Or so it seemed.
For many of pleasant Africa during a outing many years later, Podell relied on a tour-guide who insisted on being called God (short for Godfrey). The section is called “Doing God’s Work,” and Podell’s observations about a continent are that Africa “means lots of squandered time, delayed transit, bad roads, starchy food, battalions of bugs, problems exchanging money, energy failures, paranoid patriots, widespread sparse corruption, and entire poverty, yet during slightest a guns of fight and a abandon of series were on hiatus.” Of West Africa, specifically, Podell’s regard is not that it is not “developing” yet “sliding backward.” Very good said.
There are too many tasty moments in Podell’s account to discuss them all. But here are a few pointless tidbits. In Haiti, he encounters a pointer that reads: “Do Not Kidnap Anyone Today.” On his moody from Haiti to Cuba, there were 50 Haitian TB patients. Podell’s observation: “Ever try holding your exhale for 90 minutes?” The names of a few pointless restaurants in China: The Bung Hole, Dirty Dicks, Hung Far Low, a Golden Stool and My Dung. In Somalia, he had to sinecure insurance (at $770 a day) in sequence to feel safe. And there were countless other vast fees and charges via many of his travels.
So what are we left with? I’d call Albert Podell’s Around a World in 50 Years the many strange transport account ever written. And magnify Podell. At a finish of his many journeys, he marries a Russian lady 49 years younger than he. Hard to get those Playboy years out of his system.
Read this book.
Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s, 368 pp., $26.99
Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature during American University, in Washington, D.C. Email: [email protected]