Don’t Go There: the Travel Detective’s Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World by Peter Greenberg is packed with useful information about the places you want to avoid on your next cross-country road trip or international adventure. From tourist traps to environmental wastelands such as Centralia, Pennsylvania and Bhopal, India these sound like real losers.
Greenberg, who is travel editor for NBC’s Today show, covers topics you won’t find in too many travel books: the worst airlines, airports, hotels, cruises, trains, highways, theme parks and destinations. Even more importantly, the book describes the most toxic, polluted, and dangerous places on the planet. There are also sections on extremely corrupt countries, disease capitals, and the likely timing of natural disasters worldwide (cyclone season in Bangladesh, anyone?).
Many know that Beijing, Delhi, and Cairo have some of the worst air pollution in the world, but who knew that Lake Champlain in Vermont was so polluted that animals have died from drinking its water? Or that the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is now the size of Texas with 3.5 million tons of garbage floating in it, and that a number of Hawaii’s beaches are now overrun with plastic from it.
Though the book does serve a needed purpose amidst overly glowing travel journalism, I would advise you not to read it all the way through, as I did, and to instead use it as a reference to keep on your shelf – pulling it down if you’re planning a trip to a particular area. After the plethora of negative reviews all punctuated with “don’t go there”, I cringed at even the thought of the words “don’t go there.”
Luckily, the final chapter was of a different style. The author asked five very well traveled people (even more so than himself) to talk about the ten worst places they’d been. They all took slightly different tact’s on the assignment – some noting the ten places they’d never return to, but saying the memories they wouldn’t trade for anything.
He began with Charles Veley who, according to Guinness, is the most traveled man on earth. On his list of “places that are difficult to get to, and once you’re there, you wish you were gone” are Lagos, Nigeria, the Amur Highway in Russia, and China’s Shanxi Province. Another adventurer, Richard Bangs, said he’d “never really had a bad trip, or a disappointing destination…. I suffer from some sort of rare disease in which I like every place I visit.” Instead, Bangs gave a list of places he thought would be bad, but he actually really liked. On his list were Ghat, Libya, Kigali in Rwanda, and the West Bank in Palestine. This turned out to be my favorite part of the book, and I realized the more optimistic tact is actually the style of travel writing I prefer.
©Christina Kay Bolton