My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Josh Gates is trying to do for American travelers what Alton Brown has done for American cooks. In his book documenting the making of his Destination Truth TV show that airs on the SyFy channel, Gates mixes in a good dose of well-phrased pop culture, notes on the mysterious folklore creatures he is chasing, and a good bit of common sense about traveling around the world today.
Destination TV Memoirs
This very funny and often touching memoir will take readers to the far corners of our planet. To the breath-taking height of Kilimanjaro, to the corrupt tropical wonderland of Papua New Guinea, and other dangerous locations that Gates has been lucky to survive. With each adventure Gates rehashes, readers gain not only insight into the origins of folklore about monsters and the paranormal, but also how to live life as it comes at you. Time is extremely important to Americans and we tend to want to script every moment we have. Even those moments we have on vacation when we are supposed to be relaxing and enjoying the different environment we set out to taste. Gates makes several passionate pleas with us to put aside our classic American tourist clichés and become true travelers of the world who *experience* the cultures and places they visit. Reading Gates travel memoirs will give Americans some examples of what to do, and maybe what not to do when traveling abroad.
I think I immediately identified with Gates as we both hail from Massachusetts and spent our childhood swimming off the coast of Cape Cod. For me, all I need is a link to the sea to feel a connection to someone. So I admit to willingly opening my mind to reading and hearing what Gates would impart as I feel anyone who has spent time on the water must have learned something. The sea is a vicious teacher; if you don’t learn to swim you sink. I feel I was rewarded with Gates many tales.
I was truly touched when Gates paid respect to Amelia Earhart by visiting Lea airfield on Papua New Guinea; and smile at his affectionate description for the infamous female pilot whom he calls “an aviatrix Astaire.” I laughed out loud in “Chapter 10: The Delicate Art of Not Getting Killed”. While some of this chapter is seriously good advice, Gates stirs in a good dose of humor to keep readers’ anxiety under control. For example, “hippo-infested waters” and “leave hippos alone”; readers can fill in the blanks and Gates allows you to do that, which makes the anecdote all the more hilarious.
I don’t believe that I have ever seen an episode of Gates TV show, and as an avid reader I’m happy that I discovered this memoir first. I’ll definitely be looking in on the first four seasons now. His honesty about how little he knew about making the show at the beginning of the series will be interesting to see if it is apparent on film since I now know his admission. Yet, Gates chilling details of visiting Chernobyl made me realize that as a global citizen none of us should be hiding our heads in the sand about what other countries are doing on *our planet.* The TV show is entertainment and I expect to laugh just as much while watching as I did reading this memoir. However, it is obvious that Gates, the crew, and producers of the show are not shy about shedding light on serious subjects that need to step out of the shadows.
In addition, I offer a heartfelt thank you to Gates for documenting his adventures. While our childhoods may have started out on similar paths, our lives could not have diverged more. Gates talks about training himself for his climb on Kili and thus sets his path as adventurer. I however emerged as an adult only to discover I had severe arthritis and would later amputate my right leg above the knee. While I had always loved the sea and travel, I turn to books now for my adventures. Both as a reader and a writer. I have no regrets in my path; but it is different from Gates’ and I can’t deny a curiosity about the world. Reading Gates’ description of a foggy night spent on an Icelandic lake, I could hear the song of the sea calling to me as if I still lived on Cape Cod (which is now 800 miles from me). I think that kind of magic – to move readers – makes Gates not just an adventurer, a monster hunter, and a TV personality, but it makes him one hell of a writer. I hope he continues with his writing long after Destination Truth has run its course on TV. Gates writes:
“If travel has momentum and wants to stay in motion, as I mentioned earlier, then adventure has the gravitational pull of a black hole. The more you do it, the more you find a way to keep doing it.”
Whatever his future holds I have to think it will be an adventure. And I beg him to continue to publish his thoughts about the exotic destinations and travel so those of us cemented in one place can get a taste of the world beyond our reach.
Safe Travels, Gates. But always “Welcome Home!”