on April 17, 2000
I admit I did not buy this book. I found it in the lost-and-found bin at work; thumbed through some passages during lunch breaks; waited 30 days until no one claimed it, and took it.
Only when I read it through did I realize this is one of the most important books I own.
I am not well-traveled, but enjoy Crichton's fictional work, from "Andromeda Strain" to "Jurassic Park." He is obviously intelligent, imaginative, and writes well. His adventures abroad are fascinating. But what changed my life and the lives of several people I know are the recountings of inner experiences: the things no rational person acknowledges day-to-day.
In this book, Michael Crichton- a medical student- admits to finding Ram Dass's New Age viewpoint puzzling and strange at first. In subsequent chapters, he quits his promising medical career to pursue writing. From there his exploits become stuff of fantasy; shooting a film with Sean Connery, traveling to countries he had previously never heard of, becoming rationally convinced that auras are real and can be seen.
This is a book I read that transformed me from a skeptic to an open-minded pragmatist. That may seem like schlock at first, but think about it. Do you have the opportunity and means to travel to Thailand, or Hunza? Have you consulted intuitive psychics from around the world, or sliced open a cadaver?
Buy this book. It may inspire you to explore inner realities like me, or reassure your agnostic point of view. In any case, you will read wondrous descriptions of Crichton's personal journeys. You will be compelled.
on May 15, 2005
In the Preface of this highly informative and entertaining collection of musings, experiences and travels of the body, mind and spirit, Crichton explains the reasons that prompted him to write this book:
"If you are a writer, the assimilation of important experiences almost obliges you to write about them. Writing is how you make the experience your own, how you explore what it means to you, how you come to possess it, and ultimately release it."
Crichton explores our need for direct experience. His premise is that modern man has lost his innate sense of himself and existence, relying on opinions, concepts and information structures, second hand knowledge, in order to make sense of the world, which, in the end, is a false perception. He proposes that the modern city-dweller, for example, cannot even see the stars at night due to the false light around him, causing a serious alienation from himself and reality. We've become so reliant on the media, hyper -realty, that simulation has become the real, thus we have generally lost our bearings, we have lost track of ourselves in relation to the greater scheme of things. Travel for Crichton, then, helped him to have "direct experience", thus achieving a greater sense of himself and his place on the planet. This book is about these direct experiences.
In Travels there are twenty- eight essays covering the author's early life in medical school and his bout with psychiatry, moving on to his first years in Hollywood as an aspiring writer and filmmaker, to his experiences in exotic lands and his musings on his experiences with the esoteric and the unexplained. These last essays are extremely interesting because Crichton attempts to rationally explain those phenomenon that dwell in the irrational - entities, other dimensional realms and the underrated "sixth" sense, that we've come to know as intuition. His proposition is that, fundamentally, just because certain phenomena cannot be explained "rationally", doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And to dismiss such phenomenon because it cannot hold up under the rigors of scientific analysis, is a mistake.
Crichton's Travels is a writer's exploration of himself and the world. It is an entertaining chronicle, at times hilarious and sad, and ultimately a strong argument for the need for all of us to have "direct experience", reinforcing his view that we also need greater insight into the mystical as well as the scientific, in order to truly understand ourselves and existence.
As usual, similar to all his books, Crichton has given us something informative, as well as tremendously entertaining.
on November 16, 2005
Not many people can take an outrageous idea and run with it, so convincingly that there are people walking around in the world right now that actually believe dinosaurs have been brought back from extinction to act in big-budget movies! But Crichton is THAT good. In this non-fiction "Travels" you actually get the chance to ride around on Michael Crichton's 6-foot-above-the-ground shoulders (and STILL not see over his gigantic head!), peer out the windows of his eyes, and along the journey(s) discover the author to be a very authentic, introspective, one-part cowardly and six parts courageous, confused, flawed, highly intelligent, sometimes silly, sometimes blundering and yet always a tragically deep HUMAN every bit as fascinating as his best characters, kind of a Quantum Theory mentality in tour de force action. His early days as a doctor supporting himself as a fiction writer (fainting at the sight of his own blood) are just as engrossing as his soul-seeking travels about the globe, whether he's being swept unstoppably through a cloud of sharks, dealing with the frustrating anger of his father's untimely death, nearly fainting at a 300-pound gorilla's charge, or riding on the top of a train with Sean Connery, it's very difficult to put this book down. I strongly like most of Crichton's novels, but I strongly loved this non-fiction memoir.
on January 19, 2000
Thirty-seven stories of one writers accounts. Be it somewhere without or somewhere within, this book is the best auto-biographical adventure I have ever read. Crichton narrates his stories with comical candor and psychological accuity. He blends the exotic and phenomenal into a perfect creation until it transcends the wonderous and becomes human. Not a single story is without it's own life lesson for the author. His ability to relate each episode to the reader and make the reader understand the lesson's he learned is unmistakable. His interactions with women, (there are a quite a few) animals and spirits are humorously expelled as he entwines the audience with his wit and candor. Crichton's massive accomplishments are towered only by his impressive feats of earth and soul. All in all this book will be one your favorites, for every reason I can think of.
on December 22, 2013
Michael Crichton was unquestionably a brilliant and talented man. Based on what he wrote in this book, he was a complicated. self-questioning, and sometimes self-doubting person, like the rest of us. I also consider him to have been a great novelist. He could conjure up great stories and tell them well.
I'm left struggling, trying to figure out if he's taking us on another fictional exploration with this book, or if his claims in this book are real experiences.
SPOILERS BELOW - stop reading if you don't want to see them.
The most obvious of these is his spoon-bending experience. I have not seen any compelling documentation or evidence that this phenomenon occurs. If it's as easy to learn and perform as Crichton describes, why is is not better documented? Why is there no video evidence of people learning how to do this? And if it were possible and this easy to do, why would people not take advantage of the practical aspects of this ability? It takes expensive tools and energy to shape metal: if people are capable shaping metal so easily at room temperature, why would there not be people doing so for a living? Too many unanswered questions for it to be believable. And it's not reasonable to me that a logical, intelligent person with a scientific background would not even be a little curious about the physical, chemical, and biological implications of this activity.
I have to seriously consider if Crichton has written another novel to test our ability to suspend disbelief. He was a writer and a movie maker - his job was to get people to believe what seemed plausible or possible, but was not true. I don't know that's what he did here, but it makes more sense to me than it does for him to accept and then routinely dismiss spoon bending as trivial. If it's real, it's neither trivial nor simply a metaphysical trick. It would have to involve physics and chemistry. Most metal is hard at room temperature for well known reasons. For it to become malleable so easily would require a physical change, an new understanding of the physical properties of those metals, or both. We're expected to be believe that something so easily demonstrable is not being studied and explored? Or even discussed?
The two other possibilities I'm left with are that he believes what he wrote and chose not to consider the implications to the understanding of physics and matter. This is possible, but seems unlikely. The third option is that there was some sort of group influencing effect at work. Possible, but also seems unlikely.
This book is an ok read - not great or overly informative. I appreciate him sharing his introspection. I have to question the plausibility of these experiences and his beliefs.
So why 3 stars? While there are chapters of this book I enjoyed, much of it I plodded through. His experiences didn't make sense to me, and I could not reconcile them. After the first half or so I found myself just wanting to finish it so I could be done. Much of the writing about his psychic experiences was tedious and repetitive. Worth a read if you interested into this great author's insights and opinions about life and view of the world.
on September 16, 2010
I read through all the one-star reviews, and they all say the same thing: they didn't like the book because Crichton is a whiny, self-absorbed cry baby.
They seem to believe that Crichton somehow unknowingly portrayed himself this way. But the point is that he is fully aware of it. He talks about his weaknesses, his inexorable insecurities, and the experiences that helped him to change those things. The one-star reviewers wanted a cowboy or Indiana Jones type, but Crichton uses the book to expose himself to his readers by sharing thoughts and attitudes he formerly held, some of which those one-star reviewers have doubtlessly had themselves. Many are not thoughts and attitudes anyone is proud to have had in retrospect, and it shows a great measure of courage to stake his reputation with the publication of this book.
And whats this whining about "he thinks of African tribal women as animals"? It was very clear he describing the personal impact of a cultural gulf of greater magnitude than he'd ever experienced. He finished that chapter by describing the behavior of African tribes people as indicating they must have felt the same way about him, and that the notion on both sides was, in the end, absurd.
The pompousness of traveling somewhere just because other people could not? Crichton was making himself vulnerable to see what the hell he was made of. Its a shame the one-star reviewers can't get that much out of the book... I'm not sure they would get anything out of traveling themselves. They all seem to think they've reached self-realization in a vacuum.
on March 20, 1997
This was only the second Michael Crichton book I've read, after
Disclosure (which I read without knowing anything about Crichton, and
because somebody left it on an airplane). Since reading Disclosure I
had taken much more note of him, seemingly seeing his name on every
third movie or TV show I watched - and gradually associating that name
with a high level of interest and quality. Even Crichton's "pop
culture" creations had more depth to them than I first thought. I
picked up Travels at a used book store (I wasn't looking for it, but
it sounded interesting from the blurb) and found the book fascinating,
consistently entertaining, and enriching. It raises my spirits to
discover that someone so influential in creating the entertainment
content by which I, my children, and the culture I live in are
nourished is really extraordinarily talented, curious, intrepid,
soul-searching, and -- likeable. Crichton's outlook and his life are
an inspiration. He has lived richly and courageously, with a
world-class hunger for the outer and inner frontiers of experience.
Make no mistake, Travels catalogs Crichton's travels in the inner
world as much as in the outer world. (Be prepared for first-hand
accounts of spoon-bending and aura fluffing!) As long as you're going
to be exposed to a lot of Michael Crichton regardless, you might as
well get to know the guy
Length: 404 pages.
Having acquired 243 reviews thus far, my opinion of Travels by Michael Crichton is going to account for little, if any, difference in sales of this most perplexing book by a writer who, by all objective measure, will care little for my analysis.
Then again, only time will tell.
I both read the Kindle version and listened to the Brilliance Audio version obtained through audible.com has one serious gaffe - the narrator incorrectly states the copyright year as 1958. First edition of the book was 1988, as can be confirmed at amazon.com. Not terribly significant, to be sure, but a gaffe nonetheless.
Travels has reinforced many of my beliefs, clarified why my internal observations were correct or why they might be incorrect, so I can advance to the next stage of my intellectual growth and so I can better deal with the realities which I perceive.
Travels is really several books in one volume:
One book, mostly at inception, but interspersed now and then throughout, is a narrative of his life, with observations hinting at his unique insights and secrets of his success. Some of this portion was, frankly, self-centered and off-putting. Namely, Crichton so deftly lays out his inner thoughts and disappointments as to indicate a surprising degree of detachment. Yet, if one remains open to absorbing this discussion, one finds that he expresses his thoughts in such a manner so as, I believe, dodge his inner demons. There also is a hilarious story of a confrontation as he reluctantly aids a woman who needs emergency medical assistance after attempting suicide.
Inner demons he certainly possessed. Rather, they possessed him.
My point is this – the autobiography portion is the part that drags a little, here and there, but even if it is the portion that is least likely to entertain, it is definitely worth the price of admission. Book One I would rate at four stars.
Book Two, and the main reason I bought Travels, is a discussion of his travels to Africa, Asia, the South Pacific and throughout the New World. His death-defying dives for treasure will certainly enthrall many readers. One can see where Pirate Latitudes; Congo; Jurassic Park; State of Fear and so many other of Crichton’s books began ruminating in his mind. Without those adventures and close calls, it is probable that he would have written other sorts of stories or, had he still managed to author the same books, they would have a less authentic feel to their tales.
I am undecided if which of his close encounters is most exciting and most insightful into his character: Was it his climb up one of the tallest peaks in the world? Was it his bizarre circumstance in Jamaica? Was it his coming to grip with another world order in New Guinea? Or, was it his honest self-discovery of prejudice he came to realize concerning a member of the peasant class?
Book Three is Crichton’s controversial discussion of paranormal, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world.
Until reading his spoon-bending experience, to me, such a feat was utterly preposterous and not worthy of discussion. Now, though, I am less certain.
His inner travels, in which he deals with a demon within who may have existed centuries ago (or whom may only have been a creation of his imagination) and his ability to channel, well, certainly there is something there worth pondering.
His own skepticism of ESP, initially, was similar to most people. His coming to realization of its truth and value and his frank discussion of it were valuable insights to which enough of it rings true with my own experiences that I am convinced he is telling the truth as he knows it. He does not profess to understand it and expresses no theories to explain it. I am grateful, especially, that he does not believe in reincarnation. Rather, he muses something of greater value – the ability to gather the memories of others who once lived. This is, I think, not far different from thoughts I had long ago but that I could not well explain.
What I mean is, it might be possible to assimilate into oneself the spirit of a person who lived long ago and died, and has entered the spiritual plain. I can see where one might experience these memories and presume they were reincarnated. Further, and this potentially could be honed into a science fiction story, doing so could make for a sort of a time travel [at least backwards in time].
There are also two aspects worth reading, even if they are two short to be considered Books Four and Five – his early days as a medical practitioner that served to help him create the TV series ER, and his humorous quips as a director, especially his interaction with Sean Connery. Priceless stuff.
Finally, his “address to the CSICOP skeptics at Pasadena.” The address, as printed, is a pretty fair summarization of the difficulties in reconciling scientists and people who operate on a different plain – spiritual or paranormal or intuitive – and is a terrific confrontation, front and center, between some of my favorites writers squaring off with one another – Crichton, King, Asimov, Sagan and Hawking. Mind you, as hinted at by the “ marks, there is a twist to this address, so keep your guard up…
Had I never been to Botswana and never been immersed in stunning paranormal experiences there, I might have dismissed the musings on ESP by Stephen King and Michael Crichton as just so much hot air. But, what I did witness there reminded me of many similar previous experiences and gives me an insight as to the truth expressed here and elsewhere by authors who are making, or who have made, great careers by exploring such travels of the spirit and of spirit versus science.
In conclusion, although I realize Travels by Michael Crichton was not, nor ever is likely to achieve, a stunning success, it probably is the most valuable work from a man who departed us far to early.
Crichton would be welcome to my world at any time he chose for travel to my inner cognition. Simply put, I loved Travels. Oh, I forgot to mention, I have both the Kindle version and the audible.com version. This book is best savored by listening to and reading.
on December 28, 1996
This was a truly fascinating text -- Crichton has led a life
as rich and diverse as anyone could hope for -- travelling
to Nepal, attending psychic parties in California -- he's
done it all. Seeing what he's done and where he's gone really
gave me a new "confidence" in reading his ficiton novels -- this
man is basically an authority on anything and everything.
The most interesting part of this book
wasn't his travelogues (although they were quite interesting in their own right),
but rather his discussions of person-to-person relationships.
The discussions of his relationships with women were particularly
enlightening -- he's really had some unpleasant experiences with
members of the opposite sex, and after reading them, you'll
understand the real-life roots of some of the female characters
in his fiction works (read Disclosure again after reading Travels...)
After reading his personal philosophy on what men and women
are both REALLY after in a relationship, I had to put
the book down and think for a while -- he, more so than
any self-help book I've ever seen, hits the nail right on
the head in just a ten-page vignette.
Another striking thing about this book is that (unlike some
of his later works -- Lost World, for example...) Crichtion seems to be writing for himself,
without any thought toward any movies that might be made from
this book, and he reveals some VERY personal things in this
book, much more personal that what might be revealed in
some 20/20 interview (it is one of his earlier works,
and he may not have beem so audience-conscious when he wrote it).
Overall, this is a fascinating book -- it's really compelling
to see Crichton turn his analytic mind away from current events
and focus it on himself instead.
on January 13, 2014
I loved reading "The Prince" & "Atlas Shrugged" but these works meant so much more after reading the biographies of Machiavelli and Ayn Rand. The same principle holds true with reading the autobiography of Michael Crichton (Travels). It is great to learn where the visions come from. For these three great writers, all of their visions came directly from experience.