It’s Only the Himalayas, and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker, by S. Bedford. 224 pgs, Brindle & Glass, brindleandglass.com. $19.95.
Twenty-three-year-old university drop-out Sue Bedford, a bored waitress still living with her parents, longs to be more like her best gal pal Sara, who has a successful career and a great apartment. During a heart-to-heart one night, they discover their mutual wanderlust and decide to abandon their lives in Toronto for a yearlong trip around the world. So begins It’s Only the Himalayas, a travel memoir about Bedford’s backpacking tales from southern Africa, Nepal, Tibet, India, and Southeast Asia. There’s a lot to recount in 224 pages, and Bedford wastes no time in getting started. After all, she exclaims, “Just think of the Facebook status!”
Overall, Bedford’s writing is sharp and quick-witted, oozing with self-deprecating charm. Often the humour results from contrasting her disorganization with Sara’s Type A tendencies, a tension she uses to humorously expose her own faults rather than to drive a wedge between them. Barring a couple of missteps—offhand jokes about getting raped and murdered in Africa and being able to spot hepatitis on a pile of trash in India are cringe worthy—it’s a fun read. Bedford keeps the action moving and the quips a-coming.
The strongest chapter recounts Sara and Sue’s trek to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal, where their fathers join them for a two week hike into the mountains. While the journey is strenuous and tests everyone’s strength of will, the two pairs bond over shared triumphs and the results are heartwarming. “It’s these complex places that earn a spot in your heart,” one dad reflects. The focus shifts to booze and boys as Bedford and Sara make their way across Southeast Asia. The latter half feels rushed, and numerous references to hangovers and sloppy sexcapades grow tiring. Still, isn’t that what travelling in your twenties is all about? (Melissa Hergott)