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These travel humor books, translated into more than a dozen languages, have transcended geography, language and class, not to mention national origin. From the religious pilgrim to the elitist determined to recreate the Orient Express luxury experience, we all enjoy hearing about someone else who has seen a good trip go horribly wrong. Before starting the I Should Have Stayed Home series, I had spent many years working as a travel writer, telling newspaper and magazine readers where to go. For those who were eager to have me along for the ride, I even wrote guidebooks, often in tandem with experts who were seasoned editors and travel agents. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the audience for stories about bad trips was significantly broader than the audience for our Getaway guides to England, Colorado, the Southwest and California.
You may wonder what is wrong with travellers. Is no mountain high enough or river wide enough for them? Why dont they turn around when a blizzard sets in or they see the obvious peril of a Class 5 rapids? Why do they take all these chances when they dont have to? Wouldnt it make more sense for them to spend their money on a package tour to EuroDisney, where the wine flows freely, luggage is never lost and the bathrooms are checked for cleanliness every 15 minutes? The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind. Rather, it is in these pages, and I welcome you to join me to meet some of the winners of our international travel disaster contests held in association with bookstores, libraries and newspapers from Portland to Londons Putney neighborhood.
One of my favorite disaster stories involves yours truly when my rental car was stolen outside a bookstore in Denton, Texas. Naturally, I was giving a talk on the I Should Have Stayed Home series. The police never found the Dodge, my clothes, laptop, books or a box of bright red I Should Have Stayed Home buttons. Six weeks later I received a long, handwritten letter from a woman in South Carolina who had read about my incident. She had seen my belongings for sale at a flea market. Unfortunately, my correspondent explained, no one appeared to be buying the hot RDR books. That, of course, must be an aberration. For the books, and the stories, multiply.
In fact, traffic in these tales of humor and horror is so brisk that RDR Books can no longer accommodate all the wonderful material sent to us. Indeed, our inbox is so full that we are now planning new single-topic books on subjects like hotels and food. Yes, in the time it takes you to read this sentence another world traveler will be on their way down the River o No Return having paid for the privilege.
Talk show hosts and journalists frequently ask the RDR editorial team, Bob Drews, Kim Klescewski and myself, to name our favorite I Should Have Stayed Home stories. This question is a little like asking a parent to single out his or her favorite child. With these pieces frequently reprinted in newspapers, magazines and anthologies, its hard to pick out a grand prize winner. Suffice it to say we find something endearing in every story we read. But there certainly are moments along the way that enjoy a permanent home in our collective memory bank.
Who could ever forget the moment in I Should Have Gone Home when Dian Fossey urges our writer Kelly Stewart to stalk Rwandan Gorilla poachers with a Beretta smuggled into the country deep inside an English Christmas cake? Or what about the scene in I Really Should Have Stayed Home when a lawyer tells Brian Abrahams that his parking fine for blocking a line of Brussels trams added up to $85,000? Tales of troubled travel like these resonate with our fans from Madagascar to Mongolia. Certainly, we hope none of this ever happens to you. But if it does, we would love to hear all about it