Over a month ago I stumbled upon the most interesting travel book I’ve ever seen. This book isn’t about places to snorkel in Hawaii or New England bed and breakfast locations. This was a book on traveling to the most dangerous locations in the world.
Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places: 5th Edition was written by adventurer Robert Young Pelton. At over 1000 pages, I thought I’d just thumb through a few pages and return it to the library. I couldn’t stop reading this book. This 2003 edition covers and ranks countries such as Chechnya, Colombia, Iran, Liberia, North Korea, Sudan, and several others. There are chapters on how to deal with being kidnapped, bribery, and what deadly diseases you might encounter on your trip. What travel destinations have the most land mines? That question probably isn’t covered in Fodors or Lonely Planet. Pelton covers it in detail.
The book is full of statistics. Your odds of being killed in a plane crash going coast to coast in the USA is 1 in 11 million. In Africa, your odds increase to 1 in 50,000. But the number one killer of tourists in the Dark Continent is hippos (p992).
As interesting as the topic of adventure travel is to me, what I loved most about this book was the author’s writing style. Robert Young Pelton mixes the wit of Joe Queenan with high-octane travel. Right from the start in the What is Dangerous? chapter, Pelton sets the tone of the book brilliantly.
The bad news (for us; we’ll get to the third world shortly) is that all this safety labeling, caring and sharing, seat-belted, Special-K eating, nose to the grindstone society can quickly piss away a generation of genetic privilege, medical advances, and peace treaties in a single two-week vacation. Why? We seek danger even when we don’t even know it exists. …We snarf down Churros and Slurpees in our paper-thin Minivans while chatting on our cell phones at 90 miles per hour. We smoke cigarettes, drink too much booze, bang questionable partners, and pick fights with strangers. We order extra whipped cream on desert, cheese on hash browns, and extra butter for pancakes. Hell, this isn’t dangerous – this is living well. Yeah, we generally first-world ourselves to death. Yes, for some of us the world’s most dangerous place is not 9/11 but the 7-Eleven.
I really hope the author puts out a 6th edition. There are some updates on his web site ComebackAlive.com, but it has nowhere near the level of detail found in the book.