Until recently I never really took interest in reading memoirs and nonfiction because I like my fantastical stories and adventures. I like my faeries and adventures undersea or underground, my wizards, dragons and occasional journey through childhood in dire straits. With my interest in becoming a travel journalist growing, I've been paying more attention to stories that are not in the fiction department and tell real tales of real places. One of the first of such books I picked up is this memoir by Michael Crichton.
I was surprised to see that Crichton wrote any nonfiction at all. I was even more surprised to learn through the course of reading this book that I didn't really know much about Crichton to begin with. It's funny how you misplace histories, principles and other things onto authors you admire based on the material you enjoy.
Travels begins with a chunky section about Crichton's career through med school. It was one of those, "I'm just going to put this right here" segments that he wanted to put somewhere. Kind of like my blog, which is 'where I put all my stuff.' I thought about skipping it, but I don't regret following through with that first section (and eventually realized that it was actually a very important bit that does belong in the book). I especially found it intensely interesting to know about some of these experiences because they occurred in the '60s. Things were pretty different back then.
After you follow him through his experiences in medicine, he takes you though all kinds of places. Through marital strife, huge success in his various careers, visits to psychiatrists and journeys in spiritualism and meditation, you visit Bangkok, Kilimanjaro, Shangri-La, Jamaica, New Guinea, even the 'Astral Plane.' Admittedly, by the end of the book the spiritualistic themes get much stronger and more prominent, but considering the book's main theme (as I see it) was one of self-searching and the ultimate question of understanding the meaning of life (after being young and successful - what's next?), I appreciated this intimate look into Crichton's perspective.
The author shares plenty of laughs as well as deep introspect and a few sad moments. There are some parts of the book that you might feel like you're at the edge of your seat, with the rational inner voice at the back of your mind telling you, "if it's written here, it's because the man survived to tell the tale."
The book isn't eloquently written, but honestly so. I felt like I was being spoken to by someone recalling these stories from many years ago, sitting across from me at a cafe. It's definitely apparent when you get to some of the more thrilling sections that the author is good at writing action, but it still manages that honest, intimate feel that I keep mentioning.
Travels also got me interested in looking to see if there's an autobiography or memoir written by Sean Connery. Crichton blew me away with one particular chapter in which he talks about filming The First Great Train Robbery with Connery and the way he depicts him as a person. In just that small section, he convinced me that I need to know more about his life, too.
I highly recommend Travels to anyone who likes the usual fare of action, spiritualism (though this isn't a major theme until later in the book) or appreciates learning a little history; and of course journeys and travels of all kinds, even if you're not into nonfiction. You may be surprised!