The Lunatic Express

I was at the bookstore a couple of weeks ago, and of course, I made a beeline for the travel section, flipping through guidebooks of exotic and far away places.  After spending much longer than anticipated browsing,  I turned to leave, and unexpectedly, was caught by…

The Lunatic Express.


Discovering the World via It’s Most Dangerous, Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes.

Really?! Who would do that? There’s an adventure.  Sold.

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The Lunatic Express, written by Carl Hoffman, chronicles his adventure of over 159 days of traveling the globe via the world’s most unsafe conveyances.  When his life doesn’t seem to fit anymore, he determines the best solution is a long journey.  Instead of relaxing on a white sandy beach sipping a cocktail, he plans a different trip.  He steps right into the middle of the mess of travel and experiences it as most of the world must, not as a holiday, but as an unavoidable necessity.  He choosingly boards airlines notorious for crashes, ferries that have a reputation for killing hundreds, trains that are so crowded, you cannot stand comfortably, and buses that careen off of mountain roads.

Who would do that? Who would want to? That’s simply crazy.  And I am fascinated.  Fascinated by the story of what he sees, what he must sacrifice, and what he learns.

My copy of the book becomes a mini notepad.  I scribble notes in the margins, destinations I want to see, experiences I want to have.  Ideas that this book brings to the surface of my own mind.  I underline sentences and paragraphs, so beautifully and honestly written.  I love the adventure. I love reading about the people Carl meets.  His writing, descriptive and easy to follow, makes me feel like I am part of the experiences, minus the discomfort, as I read, from the warm beaches of Hawaii.  I love that books take me from one reality to another, just by the flip of a page.

In The Lunatic Express, Carl realizes the sacrifices he’s made in his life, maybe choosing adventure too often over family.  I animatedly talk with one of my friends about the book, and he doesn’t understand.  How can someone just leave their family and put themselves in danger?   I don’t know if I understand, but there is something that happens when travel reaches your soul.  Exploring becomes better than staying.

On his journey, Hoffman realizes that he has been wanting to live two lives, and has tried:  a home, family life, and the life of a vagabond travel writer.  He finally understands that he can’t completely have both, and that sacrifices are always made.  Carl’s adventures make me question my own adventures.  Am I sacrificing deep and longterm relationships for destinations and chance encounters.  A Facebook repertoire that grows and grows, and dinner invites that become less and less.  Ten years from now, will I wake up and realize, “Geez… I don’t have 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a cocker spaniel.” Will I be ok with that?

The last two months of travel and moving and then reading this book, have also given me a sense of clarity.  I don’t want to be a pilot.  I only wanted to be a pilot so that I could travel more.  I will never be happy tied to a desk, with two-weeks of vacation a year.  I need to be free.  There was once a time when I thought I’d be married by 25. Once a time I thought I’d be miserable as a flight attendant.  And how far from the truth those two thoughts are now.  Life is so full of possibilities, possibilities that I never knew would exist, or knew that I would want to exist, in my life, a short 4 years ago.  My experiences since “The Flight Attendant Life” have begun, have gifted me with new dreams of travel writing and tortilla marketing, so that working for Nike in advertising seems so far from my dream job.  I am creating a new dream.

Here are some highlighted favorites from The Lunatic Express.

Now I needed to do something huge, to jar myself out of my life-and that was what long journeys did best.  There remained so much I still wanted to know and see in the world, and I hoped that I might come home with fresh eyes.

Hoffman describes his daughter, as she travels with him on a portion of the trip:

That she’d learn that the world is a big, rich, complex, sometimes dangerous, always interesting.  That you could hide from it or explore it and embrace it in its complexities..She was being transformed by learning the strengths she already had, who she already was: someone capable and confident, and sometimes scared and happy, even at the edges of the world.

I want to be at the edges of the world.  Buy Lunatic Express.  It’s pretty amazing.

Visit Carl’s Website here.

Follow @LunaticCarl on Twitter

About the Author Kara

Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.

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Leave a Comment:

risingontheroad says November 13, 2011

That feeling of wanting two entirely contrary worlds sounds all too familiar..

    Kara says November 13, 2011

    I keep wondering, can I please have both?

Jeremy Carter-Gordon says November 13, 2011

I sort of want to do his trip now!

    Kara says November 13, 2011

    What an incredible adventure for sure! I say go for it:) I don’t think I am strong enough to handle something like that…yet. Make sure and tell me about it if you take a trip like that!

Tiffani says January 1, 2012

I constantly feel the pull between the desire to travel and staying to spend time with friends and family. Travel usually wins out. I justify it by telling myself that someone in the family has to see the world and report back to the others.
Thanks for all of your posts, I would like to become a flight attendant after my teaching contract in Korea finishes and your job/travel stories are inspiring and funny. Please keep writing!

    Kara says January 2, 2012

    Thanks for reading! Maybe we will switch roles in a sense, as I have in my dreams of living in a foreign country for at least a year. Being a flight attendant has opened my mind to and there’s just something about seeing a new sight, that I must see another and another. I’m lucky to have the opportunities that I have now while I am single. I wonder if the pull of stability vs. adventure/independance goes away the older we get?

      Tiffani says January 3, 2012

      I don’t know. I’m turning 32 this year and feel like I’m just getting started on seeing the world, so I think for me the stability isn’t going to kick in the older I get. I just need to learn to adjust my lifestyle accordingly. 🙂 Living in a foreign country is amazing, so much so that I want to keep country hopping and live in more. Asia is good because some of the countries here have low crime rates compared to the US so as a woman living abroad, alone, I can maneuver around a lot easier and safer. Plus, there’s something about living in a country where you don’t speak the language that makes a person stronger and more resourceful. Happy travels…

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