For anyone with the slightest curiosity about travelling, or even if you've been, William Sutcliffe's tremendously funny Are You Experienced? will have you in stitches. The protagonist is Dave, a 19-year-old Londoner on a gap year before starting university. He had no intention of leaving Europe, until his best mate James, who's about to go on a trek through the Himalayas, challenges him. "Do you want to learn Fwench David? Something pwactical for your CV?" he taunts when he hears Dave is going to be a waiter at a Swiss ski resort.
Admitting his fears, ("Suffering, danger and poverty are all fine by me, but dirt and disease are two things I happen to hate") Dave is determined to prove he's not a coward and accepts an invitation to go to India with James's girlfriend Liz (in anticipation of consummating their burgeoning relationship). But by the time they get on the plane it all goes downhill. Bickering constantly, their adaption to India couldn't be more different. Liz embraces it--hugging beggars and wearing saris, while Dave's dry-humoured rants, scepticism and fear of the unknown eventually drive her away in search of her "centre".
The characters the pair meet along the way draw upon all the old hippy-traveller stereotypes, but there's also a few new ones in keeping with the times. There's Ranj--a British-born Indian who hates Indians; Jez--a public-school-educated undergraduate whose travels are being funded by daddy; and Caz and Fee who experience the side-effects of "Intimate Yoga".
While this story is ultimately a funny piece of fiction, it also addresses more serious considerations, such as cultural stereotypes, peer pressures and making life-changing decisions.
This book is irresistible and seasoned travellers will empathise with the situations Dave finds himself in, (his graphic description of a bout of Dehli-belly is guaranteed to make you feel sorry for him, and nauseous too). Be prepared to laugh out loud. --Angela Boodoo
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