John Walters is an American writer. After living abroad for many years in India, Bangladesh, Italy, and Greece, he has recently returned to the United States. He attended the 1973 Clarion West science fiction writing workshop and is a member of Science Fiction Writers of America. He writes mainstream fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and memoirs of his wanderings around the world.
I've been meaning to read this memoir ever since I first learned about John Walters through another writer's blog.
"World Without Pain" is the account of his experiences wandering around the world (and the Far East in particular) as a young writer during the hippie generation's heyday. The stories he accumulated during his travels are full of richly detailed environs and vibrant and complex characters - like the young fruitarian who believes he's discovered the key to withstanding extreme temperatures, the communes of 'Jesus People,' or the remote, quirky camp of forest firefighters - who pass in and out of the author's life with a sort of bitter infrequency. Though the worldwide community of hippies, students, freaks and wanderers was bustling and colorful, life on the road was usually extremely lonely. Friends and lovers were almost always ephemeral in nature; everyone on the road was too self-centered on their own experience to really commit to anyone else. I feel the author did a fantastic job in capturing this.
The memoir did a good job elucidating what I've already known for a while: that the romantic ideal of a life spent traveling and vagabonding was, and is, nowhere near realistic. The author was one of a movement of young people who fled a rat race searching for clarity, searching for some meaning, but in the end, their lifestyle of constant movement, freeloading and drug abuse just became another, larger cage to trap them in. Crime, poverty, disease, drugs and idealistic expectations make for a story of a journey that is at times heartbreaking, thought-provoking and paradoxically uplifting.