When I’m not actually traveling I love thinking about traveling, and books like Kiwis Might Fly, by Polly Evans (Random House, 2007) scratch that “armchair travel” itch quite nicely. Although the book is a bit on the older side, it still reads very relevantly, and I love Evans’ writing style. The author heads to New Zealand after having read that the typical “Kiwi bloke” is an endangered species, and that the backcountry, resourceful, man’s man the country is famous for is a thing of the past. While the premise seems a bit flimsy at first, it actually makes for an interesting approach to travel, and I enjoyed “meeting” the cross-section of New Zealanders Evans encounters. (Spoiler alert: she does actually find an elusive “Kiwi bloke” eventually…a big, white, fluffy cat!)
I had read It’s Not About the Tapas, Evans’ narration of a bicycle trip around Spain, and loved every minute. In New Zealand, Evans decides to travel by motorcycle, thinking it will make her more credible to Kiwi men. Her eventual mastery of the motorcycle, the interesting situations it engenders across her trip, and the sights, sounds, and smells it helps her to fully experience make for engaging and funny storytelling. Evans is British, and her dry humor throughout the book makes you feel like you’re sitting next to her in a pub. She is not afraid to share self-deprecating details like being pinned against a gas pump by her motorcycle, or becoming so exhausted by a morning helping to shear sheep that she spends the next day in bed in her hotel with a glass of wine. Her descriptions of the breathtaking scenery are the best I’ve read anywhere, and in the end I feel a bit like I’ve actually been to New Zealand.
Evans has other books that I’m looking forward to reading. In On a Hoof and a Prayer she explores Argentina by horseback, and in Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman she plunges into Canada by dog-sled. I like this approach of using a different means of travel for each country, since it makes the experience more unique and, if the two books I’ve read are any indication, entertaining. I’ve read some pretty bad travel writing recently, so it’s a real treat to be in the hands of a gifted and funny writer. The only traveler who writes better is my friend, Pam Roberts. Still working on that book about your Camino de Santiago pilgrimages, Pam? 🙂