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4.1 out of 5 stars
No Sense of Direction
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2005
This is a wonderful collection of the author's anecdotes from his travels. I was envious of the author while I was reading his book, wishing I could travel like that. He takes you from Denmark where he starts his travels, into Russia, and the Orient. He not only describes the places and people he sees and meets on his trip, he tells of the trip itself. Sometimes the journey is the best part of going somewhere. I found particularly amusing his escapades of getting in and out of Russia illegally, his time in Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand. Some of the places he visited I have been to and found his description of the country, people, and culture right on target.

The author did an excellent job at getting his ideas across. This is a great book to read to escape or take a short trip in your own mind. It is laid out in short, seven to ten page passages, which make the book easy to read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in travel, adventure, or someone who just wants a good read. You can tell the author loves what he does by the strong emotional impact the book has on the reader. We rated this book five Hearts.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2003
Unfortunately, Mr. Raff is only a mediocre writer. His descriptions are repetitive and he recounts mundane things in too much detail. We don't need to know that after the plane landed the flight attendant walked through the cabin to collect the empty cups and trash. It's tiresome to read about walking across the tarmac (describing it as dark), checking into the hotel (after walking up the sidewalk) and bargaining for a $5 room. If the author had such a great job in New York why is it that he became such an extreme penny pincher on the road? Was it to make a better story?
He's not a very smart traveler, either. After being kicked out of Russia for not having a visa he sneaks in again. Spring for the visa fee for goodness sake! Consequently, he spends a good part of his trip fretting about being deported. Who needs that unnecessary stress? He doesn't know that Europeans and many other nationalities put the day of the month before the month in their numerical dates, causing yet more anguish and concern about whether he's going to be allowed to cross the border into China before his transit visa expires. He and his friends suffer through a horrendous tuk-tuk ride to the airport in Bangkok, three of them piled onto one little vehicle with their backpacks and other bags. Fork over a couple more dollars and hire a second driver! Why suffer to save a dollar or two? Once again, were some of these adventures undertaken with the sole purpose of writing about them later? Didn't he do any research before he left? He gets to Taiwan just in time for typhoon season. Raff gives the impression that he thinks it doesn't do anything but rain there and he couldn't get away from the place soon enough.
Anyone expecting to read a bit about Raff's travels through India based on the book's cover will be disappointed. While the photograph appears to have been taken somewhere in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, the author doesn't go anywhere near those places! Just when and where was that photo taken? Did the publishers superimpose his image on a generic "travelers' street scene," was that part of the trip left out or was this another journey altogether? It's a small point but personally I was looking forward to hearing about India.
All in all, I'd have to say that only a few of Raff's tales are interesting, especially the descriptions of the people he hooks up with on the road. Was his relationship with the pretty, young blonde from Sweden purely Platonic? I'd like to know more. For the most part, however, the book fell flat. It's fairly short, with many frequent chapter breaks. Couldn't he have filled the story out a little more? He skips over major portions of the trip, only to flesh the book out with too much detail about personal minutiae and not enough about the places he visits.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2002
What would you do if you had no agenda, no schedule, no time constraints,and loved to travel. LIVE! No Sense of Direction takes you along on a delightful journey that shows how it takes little more than a free spirit and an adventurous soul to see the world. With a whimsical, almost childlike innocence, Eric Raff ventures to places that most of us wouldn't dare to go. You'll laugh out loud as he sneaks in and out of countries, be
amused at the trouble he gets himself into, and be stirred by the eccentric characters he meets. No Sense of Direction is a must read for anyone who dreams of leaving their job to travel and experience life on the road. If you can't imagine affording such a fantasy, this is your ticket to freedom. Pick up No Sense of Direction and GO!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2002
"Seize the day" is the underlying theme of this truly inspirational book. The author, Eric J. Raff, quits his respectful job and jettisons the creature comforts of New York City to live out his dream- a trip around the world sans itinerary! No Sense of Direction recounts his fascinating journey.
This book works on many levels. If you are a backpacker with a limited budget, there are plenty of helpful hints to aid your journey. Some of which are rather counter-intuitive: For example, if you need train tickets in Post-Glasnost Russia, don't be a rube and wait at the ticket counter. Be smart and look for the scurrilous characters lurking in the background- the chances are that they have "pre-purchased" all of the available tickets. (Hopefully, this has been reformed) Or if you are boarding a Songthaew in Bangkok -look for the truck that is dangerously overcrowded or you might be waiting awhile.
The book has a cast of a thousand crazy characters. There is the 6'4 Dane who drives what resembles a Mini Cooper. Or "Scarface" the ten year old Vietnamese street tough who could probably shake down the original Chicago gangster for his milk money. And lets' not forget the author himself, who brazenly sneaks into Russia without a visa.
In Post 9/11 America, we are all re-assessing our priorities. The current Zeitgeist screams "borrowed time". No Sense of Direction will give you the inspiration to get some dreams done.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2012
Why did this man NOT have an editor? I kept wanting to re-write it. It should have been an interesting tale, but the style in which it was written makes me think he just copied it from his journal. The conversational "quotes" were particularly unnecessary.
The tedious telling just petered out in the end......
I suggest that he actually study the genre, then lock himself away for a re-do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2007
As a preface, Raff's writing style was superb. To me, this book read like a novel in that throughout the read, I consistently had the feeling that there was another dramatic event lurking right around the corner. At those corners, Raff did not disappoint.

There is something in this book that all travelers can relate to. Indeed, this is a must-read for young travelers who are taking long trips around Europe and elsewhere around the world. Let's face it, unless one comes from a wealthy family, an extended trip of many months would still probably cost one a huge bundle of money even when staying in inexpensive hotels and hostels, especially when considering there is no income during this time. Raff shows this huge class of travelers how it is done.

Make no mistake though, this book is also for those taking one week to one month vacations while staying at mid-range hotels such as those running about $100 per night. I fall into this category and have experienced similar, albeit less dramatic adventures on overnight trains. Simply stated, it was for easy for me (and I suspect for most readers) to relate to his adventures.

Indeed, even the high class traveler can learn something from Raff's book, as even high class travelers experience adventurous or dramatic situations. All travelers should undertand Raff's point that traveling is not about the destination but about the journey. Certainly, Raff imbues his readers with a sense of adventure while leaving them with a sense of yearning for more travel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2005
I found this book to be a fun and interesting read. I haven't been able to travel all that much, and certainly not to any of the places the author went. His descriptions made it come alive in a way that made me want to book a flight and take a year off work! The people he met along the way really make the story. I read it over a weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is the author's first book and definitely worth checking out!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2013
I was hoping for a nice read of personal experiences of a novice traveler on an unscripted adventure. I started to skim after 20 pages and gave up before I was 30% of the way through. The contradictions of wanting to travel on a budget and then bribing train conductors to save a few hours wait on a platform was a killer. The recounting of ordinary mundane details also turned me off.
Maybe I missed the good parts in the latter 2/3 of the story? Or perhaps the authors impatience in not wanting to waste some precious hours of his life waiting for transport transferred to me and the time I was wasting on his account.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2013
An engaging read with vivid descriptions however the final editing disappoints
with spelling mistakes which detracts from the overall enjoyment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2002
You can't help envying a guy who walks away from an impressive New York job, grabs a backpack and takes off for places unknown, without a specific itinerary, with no help from a travel agent, but armed with indomitable good spirit. Eric Raff's report of his travels from Scandinavia, to Eastern Europe and into Southeast Asia has a wonderfully picaresque quality. He meets a collection of memorable personalities ranging from merely interesting to utterly charming, to raffishly entrepreneurial, who either encourage, abet or threaten his ability to get from here to there without bothering with restrictive formalities such as visas, reservations, or
timetables. Traveling this way may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the author makes it sound remarkably attractive, despite the
vagaries -- and real rigors -- of life on the road from Scandinavia to Thailand. If you're a would-be backpacker, or just an armchair traveler, you'll enjoy sharing Eric's once-in-a-lifetime serendipitous journey.
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