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When Things Go Bad: The Literature of Bad Trips

Updated on August 7, 2012

A Deadly Mountain

Though beautiful from a distance, Mount Everest has claimed the lives of many climbers
Though beautiful from a distance, Mount Everest has claimed the lives of many climbers | Source

Changing World of Travel

Today, travelers and travel writers have journeyed to all corners of the globe, for it is still possible, to find isolated places that are worlds apart from the hometown and country you grew up. Satellite communication has put a different spin to such trips, for even remote places, now have wireless phone service. A chilling example of this phenomena occurs on the pages of Into Thin Air, when a mountaineering guide, named Rob Hall, makes a phone call from the summit of Mt. Everest to his wife in New Zealand after he knows that rescue is impossible and soon he will succumb to the elements.


Fortunately, not all bad trips end in disaster. for sometimes travel experiences involve those embarrassing situations and lighthearted moments that always seem to pop up when two different cultures and ways of living collide. Even though calamity and bad luck may place the unlucky traveler in a perilous predicament, that same person might return home to tell his tale. Who knows he or she might even end up as a successful or at least a well-read travel writer.

Bad Weather

Thunder above Madeira waters in Portugal
Thunder above Madeira waters in Portugal | Source

In Print

To verify this phenomena just visit the travel section in almost any bookstore and you will discover numerous titles devoted to non-fatal bad trips and other travel misfortunes. What once was a fringe area for adventurous writers, has now clearly become a marketable quality. While in Twain's day, "Following the Equator" may have run against the grain and challenged popular thinking, today his viewpoint is celebrated and extolled by writers all across the planet. You might say, it's kind of "in" to be an outsider, especially in the field of literature.

A Walk In the Woods

One of the more successful practitioners of this self-depreciating art would definitely include Bill Bryson, who wrote a hiking book, called A Walk In the Woods. In essence, this offbeat traveler's tale revolves around two hikers, who do not complete a planned hike from Georgia to Maine, as planned. In contrast to the considerable accumulation of written material published by "through" hikers, the quirky exploits of Bryson and his overweight sidekick, have found a large worldwide audience and redefined the literature on trail hiking.

The Trail

Certain types of hiking imply risk
Certain types of hiking imply risk | Source

"Bad Trip" Anthologies

Then there is the "bad trip" anthology, a strange new creation, where an editor, collects a slurry of written accounts, extolling the virtues and excitement of surviving misfortune.....Adrenaline junkies, anybody? Such titles can be found in almost any bookselling venues, often being put into circulation from many of the small or obscure publishing houses that make up today's publishing scene. A quick look around the web reveals a covey of intriguing titles, such as "Bad Trips" edited by Keath Fraser and "The Titantic Awards" put together by Doug Lansky. And don't forget the Travelers Tales series of female misadventures, which go by such provocative names, as "The Thong Also Rises" and "Sand In My Bra".

Edward Abby's Famous Words

Along a similar note are the misadventure books produced by one far-ranging writer. "No Touch Monkey" by Ayun Halliday, the "Lunatic Express" by Carl Hoffman, "Round Ireland With A Fridge" by Tony Hawks and "Sex Lives With Cannibals" by J. Maarten Troost are just a few titles that come to mind in this regard. In fact, you might have your own story that could one day find its way into such a collection.....Though you shouldn't forget what Edward Abby once noted,

"Climbing K2 or floating the Grand Canyon in an inner tube. There are some things one would rather have done than do.”


Some mishaps can be salvaged by a rescue effort
Some mishaps can be salvaged by a rescue effort | Source


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