Elliott Hester’s Adventures of a Continental Drifter: A review



Elliott Hester’s Adventures of a Continental Drifter : An Around-the-World Excursion into Weirdness, Danger, Lust, and the Perils of Street Food

Reviewed by Bill Jenkins

Elliott Hester’s account of his yearlong round-the-world trip has plenty of moments common to most travelers. Who hasn’t spent an uncomfortable day at a legendary destination, distracted from the beauty and timelessness of the site by the need to find a marginally acceptable toilet? Whether the cause was Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge or a gut-wrenching form of Egypt’s Gyppie Tummy, anyone who has traveled widely has had that moment.

Some of the author’s experiences (involving high explosives, camel riding, transvestite advances and film festivals) are dangerous, chilling or just plain weird. Most of these have nothing to do with the fact that he is sometimes mistaken for Samuel L. Jackson; he is just in the “right” place when bizarre things happen. In addition, he is a risk taker, leaving himself open to situations and activities that contain a degree of peril.

Hester is the kind of writer who knows how to keep out of the way of a good story. He does not pose as a Zen master of living abroad or a guru for aspiring travelers. He is just a guy, a veteran flight attendant who takes advantage of the industry downturn after 9/11 to take a year off and go around the globe. He is not wandering aimlessly. His round-the-world ticket sets a rough east-to-west itinerary. He has friends and friends of friends scattered along the route for safe havens. He has money in the bank. He’s like us. In short, he’s Everyman, one of us. And likeable.

This book was beach reading for me, consumed during a pleasant Spring Break at an all-inclusive resort on Dominican Republic’s Bavaro Beach. I laughed enough to provoke some of my fellow baskers to ask what I was reading (and enough for some people to move their loungers a little further away). Perfect light reading.

One feature of Hester’s writing did grate on me. He saw the airline system as a sort of home away from home. When things got tiresome, too grimy, uncomfortable or dull, he just pops up at an airport and turns himself over to “the air travel system.” As a former flight attendant, he is on familiar and comfortable ground. This is not my experience, however, as post-9/11 hassles have invariably made the “air travel system” the least enjoyable part of my travels.

In the end, the year of travel was life-changing for Elliott Hester. His new mantra is “Stay single, stay liquid, keep traveling for as long as you can.” He no longer has an address or a job other than writing. You don’t have to buy into that. Just read the book, laugh or gasp, then close your eyes and think about your next trip.

Note: Bill Jenkins is a world traveler, semi-retired social studies teacher, former BTK suspect, and regular columnist with the alternative weekly F5 Wichita. He last contribution to Vagablogging.net was a review of Martin Gurdon’s Travels with My Chicken : A Man and His Companion Take to the Road.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | April 18, 2006
Category: Travel Writing

One Response to “Elliott Hester’s Adventures of a Continental Drifter: A review”

  1. Lloyd Says:

    After reading Plane Insanity, it’s a pleasure to hear there is another book to place on my list of BTR. Based on the review, it appears that this new book is every bit as entertaining as Plane Insanity