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Why didn’t I think of that? The first anti-travel book.

August 30, 2010


Catherine Price


We all have places we’ve vowed never to visit again. For me, it’s Wisconsin, where I spent the coldest winter of my life over the course of 10 days in June, 1982. Brrr! Never again! Fortunately, a young writer named Catherine Price has hit on the capital notion of an “anti-travel” book, warning of places best avoided.

While plenty of people might disagree with me about Wisconsin — looking out the window from my perch next to the stove, I could see it is a place of natural beauty — Price has traveled to locations most of us will agree we’d just as soon not visit.

And she puts them all down in 101 Places Not to See Before You Die. As NPR puts it: “Price takes it upon herself to go to terrible tourist destinations…so you don’t have to.” 

Like The Gum Wall in Seattle — “It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Price says. Or the Karostas Cietums Prison Hotel in Latvia, where you can sleep in a prison bunk. For an extra fee, “you can arrange to be abducted at your workplace and delivered to the hotel.”

Or the Beijing Museum of Tap Water (need more be said? Those wacky Chinese!). Or the Museum of Anatomy in Turin, Italy. Or the Tunnel at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

Or the Montana “Testicle Festival” — do you really want to know? Me, neither, but I’m guessing it has something to do with bulls. Or steers…

Price identifies a few surprising destinations, places you might think you want to visit. For example, Ireland’s Blarney Stone, where, legend says, you get the Irish gift for gab if you kiss the famous stone.

Problem is, with thousands of tourists laying their lips on the thing each year, it’s rated “the most germy” tourist attraction by CNN in 2009.”

That’s even ahead of the Gum Wall, which came in second.

Despite the high-concept snark factor inherent in the project, Price has written a real travel book. It’s more than a collection of jokes or light observations, but consists of  her narrative accounts of visiting these unsavory places.

You can get a taste (yech!) of her surprisingly serious writing style in the account of a night at a Korean Buddhist monastery in an excerpt at NPR. You can also visit Price’s webpage.

So what’s the most awful place you’ve been to?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Davis permalink
    August 30, 2010 2:20 pm

    For me, the worst place was an Econo-Dump in Jacksonville. A knob came off a dresser drawer, exposing the point of a wood screw. The water pipes in the next room broke, soaking our carpet. And the heater was inadequate. The last was important, because it was during the blizzard of 1989, and two-foot icicles were hanging off the eaves outside. I slept in streetclothes and two blankets, and I was still cold.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 30, 2010 10:27 pm

      That sounds suitably awful, Jim. You shoulda wrote a travel story.

  2. Candice Simmons permalink
    August 30, 2010 2:50 pm

    The Statue of Liberty where, according to my brother-in-law’s boyfriend, has had “more people up in it than Madonna.” Once you get to the ladder, you can not avoid your face right in someone’s butt and can only hope that person doesn’t fart or fall. Of course you do get your grand view once you reach the top: of New Jersey through a tiny, filthy window.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 30, 2010 2:53 pm

      Excellent! I think you could give Catherine a run for her money.

  3. John Karwacki permalink
    August 30, 2010 2:52 pm

    Sage Mountain Rainforest on Tortola, U.S. Virgin Islands; why, you ask – it’s a long story. Suffice to say, my daughter Emily was twelve and wore flip flops, I took several wrong turns and my son, eighteen at the time and enjoying himself immensly said to his sister. “Emily, just think of the adventure you will be able to tell your friends about when we get back to Florida.” To which Emily replied, tears in her eyes, “if I ever see my friends again.” We still laugh about this at my house, Emily, not so much as the rest of us. Anyway, skip the forest and hang out at Cane Garden Bay, nice beach, cool locals, Carribean heaven.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 30, 2010 10:28 pm

      You’re such an outdoorsman, John. I’m sure Emily agrees.

  4. August 30, 2010 4:14 pm


    As one wag once put it, if it weren’t for a mouse and a ping-pong ball, it would have no excuse to exist.

    A free Orlando snowglobe to whoever gets the ping-pong ball reference.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 30, 2010 10:29 pm


      • August 31, 2010 12:02 pm


        The ping-pong ball refers to the NBA lottery and the means by which the nascent Orlando Magic snagged Shaq, thereby signalling the world that Orlando wasn’t merely a novel by Virginia Woolf.

        Wonder where the town got its name, by the way.

  5. Sean permalink
    August 30, 2010 5:19 pm

    In March I drove through a Texas town called Ropesville. It was basically one giant concrete farm silo on a road near Lubbock, and I didn’t stop to ask how the place got its name.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 30, 2010 10:32 pm

      Probably a smart move. I think I saw a movie about that town on the Syfy Channel recently, starring Lou Diamond Philips, Lance Henrikson, Lori Petty, Sheryl Lee, with a special appearance by the immortal William Sadler.

      • Sean permalink
        August 31, 2010 4:21 pm

        Route 666?

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