Holidays in Heck
Interview Words : The World According To ... | 21 November

The World According to P J O'Rourke

America's favourite cigar-chewing satirist sets the world straight with his views on travel

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

None of the above – the woods and fields of New England where I live.

First travel experience?

London in 1970. It was a foreign country then – dark, cold, poor, but jolly or, anyway, drunk.

Favourite journey?

Horseback trek across the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Best part was that I didn’t die.

Top five places worldwide?

Bar at the Foreign Correspondents Club on Ice House Road in Hong Kong.

Wadi Rum through which Lawrence of Arabia rode with the Bedouins to conquer Arabia.

Venice in the middle of winter when the pigeons and tourists have been frozen out.

Quail covers in South Texas.

The Ngorongoro Crater.

Special place to stay?

My men’s club. Very peaceful. Neither the tedium of bores nor the excitement of women is allowed.

Three items you always pack?

Money, medicine for stomach upsets, more medicine for stomach upsets.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

The one that shows I’ve been allowed back into the United States.

Passport stamp you'd most like to have?

North Korea, probably the strangest place left on the planet, New York always excepted.

Guilty travel pleasure?

Souvenirs. I’m always lugging something home that won’t fit in the overhead compartment and gets me detained by Homeland Security.

Window or aisle?

Aisle. I have a 64-year-old bladder.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

My bird dog, Millie. Unless my wife is reading this.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Best: Oysters and Guinness on Galway Bay.

Worst: Lamb brains in Kuwait.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Moscow, right after the fall of Communism – someone had turned the lights on. Most places in the Caribbean – a dump with pretty beaches.

Where do you NOT want to go?

Home. Usually around 1 or 2 am.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Didn’t know what else to do with myself. My favorite travel writer is Evelyn Waugh who was bored by every place he went.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

Not – God willing – the person next to me on an airplane. If you can go to Cuba and not hear “Guantanamera” 200,000 times, you are a more savvy traveler than I.

What do you read?

Big, long things that are too difficult for me to while away the time. I took Anna Karenina to the Gulf War and Ovid’s Metamorphoses to the War in Iraq.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

I don’t have any particular faith in humanity, but, if I did, Mogadishu’s man-in-the-street would have put paid to it.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

"Mas cervaza fria, por favor."

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Snoring in business class.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

With chat and I’d soon be snowbound in Antarctica outside the tent.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Civil war in Lebanon, when I realised I was too scared to be worried about anything.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

Cigarette smoke – you hardly ever get a whiff of it back home anymore.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

Just before the Internet and cell phones shrank the world to strip mall size.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

London for the brains. Hong Kong for the bustle. And Paris for the silly Parisians to remind be that I prefer the dullest countryside to even the most splendid city.

Holidays in HeckHolidays in Heck by P.J. O'Rourke is published by Atlantic Books and is available on Amazon now

Want more of P J's wit and wisdom? Check out our BIG interview with him here.

"I’m never allowed back to South Korea, incidentally. Absolutely not. I could probably get into North Korea more easily than the south. They were furious about the piece I wrote calling them the Irish of Asia and they were just furious about it.

You know, I got pre-printed postcard death threats, essentially mimeographed death threats. There was something so unthreatening about this, I’ve got to say. Of course, they were all sent to Rolling Stone. They had no idea where I was. Plus, we all look alike." PJ O'Rourke: Holidays in Heck | Interviews... More

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