The Absolutely Useless Guide to… Travel – Sean Dalton, Sean Kelly & David O’Rourke
The Absolutely Useless Guide to… Travel is a parody of travel guides that try to use personal stories to illustrate the culture or sights of a new country – often failing miserably. Sean Dalton, Sean Kelly, and David O’Rourke are very witty guys and I imagine would keep a crowd entertained for ages, but in terms of writing a book that delivered something worthwhile, I don’t think they achieved it. One statement is that they are trying to illustrate how awful some travel guides can be, and their way to demonstrate that is to write an awful travel guide. The guys are travel bloggers and I’d suggest following them because they have a comedic turn of phrase that is clever and entertaining.
There is a lot of sarcastic wit and with each of 12 worldwide cities, the authors alternate in telling a story associated with that country, mainly heading off in unexpected and irrational tangents. To suggest they have taken a trip, you wouldn’t be wrong, but I just question how many of those trips were chemically facilitated.
The tales followed the lines of fantasy such as getting a tour of Dublin from William of Orange, insulting the Queen of England and being taken to the Tower of London, meeting the Pope in Rome and Putin in Moscow. The last two could be possible, but by this stage, I don’t know what parts could be real or imagined, and worse still, I don’t care.
There are a few insider jokes or innuendos that would fly over many people’s heads, for example, the never-ending building of the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, has become a national scandal with the amounts of money invested at the detriment of healthcare needs around the country. As a patient in a luxurious hospital in Cairo the author reflected
“It looked like millions were spent to build this hospital, but hey… It’s better than spending billions on no hospital. It would be worse if that no hospital was for children too. Luckily, that kind of situation is unimaginable.”
I really wanted to love this book and I know I laughed often but overall I just missed the point. It reminds me of the danger of being so funny in your own head that you forget to take the listener with you. Some will find it uniquely hilarious and I do hope they enjoy it but it just wasn’t for me.
I would like to thank Sean Kelly for providing me with an electronic version of their book in return for an honest review.