Book: The Lunatic Express
Author: Carl Hoffman (Click author’s name to go to his website)
Publisher: Broadway Books
283 pages (I purchased and read the Kindle Edition of the book though)
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book starts off with Carl Hoffman traveling to Cuba by plane—not just any plane--a fairly ramshackle and unsafe feeling plane. Well, I obviously knew that he survived his trip so I felt like I could roll with his adventure through the streets of Havana before he moved onto South America. By the time Peru rolled around, I wondered how many pages would either be ghost written or blank because I was truly terrified. You see, the roads in Peru are not good roads, AND they happen to hug some wicked cliffs. In fact, the introduction to one of the sections on Latin America included a news story of a bus that had disappeared of a 1,600 foot gorge. I have a small fear of heights…ok…a BIG fear of heights. My stomach is actually feeling a little tingly and weak just thinking about that section because I cannot even imagine being in a bus on sketchy roads that hug cliff faces. I was really glad when the Latin America section was over and Mr. Hoffman moved on to Africa.
Each section is preceded by a news story of some terrible transportation accident or physical dangers from people that might do others harm. It sets up each trip he takes as harrowing even though he is just a passenger. Every section was unsettling and dangerous, but the people he meets in each place transcend the danger and make the journey an interesting and worthwhile experience. If anything, the book helps restore some faith in humanity as complete strangers open up themselves and at times their homes to Hoffman. I found that beautiful and was thankful to see that despite language and cultural differences, there is a common humanity that people can exhibit especially when they have so few material things to give. This was my favorite thing about the book as Hoffman traveled around the world. It was a rare moment when his willingness to share the experience of the traveling poor wasn’t rewarded with an act of kindness. Even in places where the camaraderie was in short supply, there was usually a small incident that showed how wonderful people can be.
I also really enjoyed how candid Carl Hoffman was about his experience and his motivations to take the trip. It was more introspective and raw than I was expecting, and it made me enjoy the book that much more. I think it must be so difficult to express some of the internal trials that we all go through as human beings, but Hoffman shared a part of himself that I wasn’t expecting and his honesty was refreshing. The trip was as much about discovering where he was in his life as it was about discovering the world’s most dangerous transportation.
There was one thing I found lacking in the book. The map in the Kindle edition is not very easy to examine. I was lucky enough to have a paper copy that I could look at as well. While that was disappointing, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book in the least. It was an amazing journey all-around and it made me look at travel in a whole different way. I can’t say that I would be willing to travel in a broken down truck with no heat in the cold desert of Mongolia, brave a war torn country like Afghanistan, or sleep on a ferry that I shared with thousands upon thousands of roaches, but it definitely makes me want to embrace more experiences that might cause some personal discomfort but will open the world to me in ways which I never expected. I enjoyed every moment of the book and highly recommend it if you are looking for a book about really off the beaten path travel.
Links of Interest
Sophisticated Dorkiness' review of The Lunatic Express
Website for the book, The Lunatic Express
Carl Hoffman’s Blog
Follow author Carl Hoffman on Twitter
**Note of Disclosure: I purchased my copy of The Lunatic Express for my Kindle, but I did receive a copy of the book from the author, Carl Hoffman, for a giveaway on my blog.