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The Backpacker

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  566 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
For fans of Alex Garland's The Beach, a true story of out-of-control travel

"Leaving the blinding sand for the cool shade of the trees, I walked carefully through the undergrowth to where Dave, using two twigs as chopsticks, was picking up a freshly severed human finger . . . "

John's trip to India starts badly when his girlfriend, with whom he is traveling, returns home. Le
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Summersdale (first published 2001)
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Backpacking, such an innocent thing for those on a gap year to do. You may be slightly worried as you wave them off at the airport, but you think that they are fairly level headed and aren’t going to do anything stupid. Are they?

If you have any concerns at all then I wouldn’t recommend reading this one.

John Harris has just arrived in India with his girlfriend. Even though her parents are Indian, she hates the country, and after a bit of a row, she decides to head home. Harris is in a bit of a qu
Nov 28, 2012 Jamie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
John Harris is exactly the kind of tourist that has destroyed places like Thailand and made millions of people around the world think of Westerners as shallow, self-absorbed hedonists. Read this book to find out how not to travel.
Apr 01, 2013 Juliane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The adventure story is a nice page turner. Apart from that, it's no literary master piece. The character started to p*ss me off at some point, because they are self-absorbed and egocentric a**holes who just care about drugs and women, most of which are prostitutes. The main characters (and if this is based on a true story, so the author) have no empathy or even interest in the people of the countries they travel in. They are portrayed as either ripping them off or, well, being hookers. Women are ...more
Dan Walsh
Aug 02, 2011 Dan Walsh rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
From a strong start this “true story” (rubbish) turned into badly written infantile crap. I felt annoyed I wasted my time reading it. Definitely no “The Beach”. Avoid.
Mar 09, 2015 Wilhelmina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not worth the effort it took to read it. I rated it a one star, because there are no "minus" stars. Luckily I did not buy this book, but downloaded it from a library.......the only use for a paper copy of this book is for the outhouse this guy.......can't call him an author, probably used. This book is really awful, and quite stupid. Harris starts out in India, ditches his girlfriend and job, and leads a rather criminal life......not a petty criminal, from dealing drugs to stealing ...more
Francesco Bifera
The concept and story of 'The Backpacker' is truly exciting and amazing, it really depicts the trials and tribulations of the events of backpacking and all the different opportunities one can be presented with living each day differently. The story displays so many different emotions and can be enjoyed by a broad range of social population. This is a truly captivating book which wants you reading more, it really consumes the reader and makes one believe they are traveling alongside, bearing the ...more
This kept showing up in my suggested books list, so I finally read it. Fucking awful book.

The reviews were mediocre so I should have expected it, but my god it was so bad. The only saving grace is that its short.

The book has no real ending, the characters are like caricatures (although they may be based on the author) who come across as self-absorbed assholes who think they're better than everyone else. Some parts of the book are just ridiculous, mainly with the money problems and the boat. Do
Jul 05, 2015 Vladimir rated it it was ok
In the beginning, it was a nice read, a little bit funny, a little bit appealing, a little bit surprising. Later on it started to feel and sound trashy, but in general - I enjoyed it.

The story had a lot of holes and a lot of unbelievable and surreal twists. The only reason why I was enjoying the book is because I visited couple of these places before reading the book, so it was nice to read about Asia, Australia and India in these paragraphs from another perspective.

That's why it got two and not
Apr 01, 2011 Nadia rated it really liked it
Since I first read The Beach I got hooked on travel stories of finding not only new paradises but also yourself. John Harris's book is exactly what i needed approaching the challenge of not following the establishment and instead following my itchy feet. The book is closely related to The Beach, most of the plot is situated in Thailand and the area, but of course being a real-life story is less dramatic and more grounded. Still there is life-turning point and the last pages of the book made me c ...more
Jul 28, 2015 Corinne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This has to be the most stupid story and author I've ever read. John Harris is so immature, self-centered, whiny, "poor-me", chauvinistic, immoral, he basically is a con-artist, a stealer and an arsonist. He feels entitled and he feels that the world owes him or something. And he complains a lot! English is only my second language, but I can tell when a book is written in poor English, and this one is.
Martin Augood
Mar 02, 2016 Martin Augood rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As a regular traveller and familiar with far east, this was not interesting or engrossing and laborious in parts. Poorly written and way too laddish, with little cultural content or respect and little to appreciate.
David Nunn
Jan 16, 2014 David Nunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book I have read in months, absolutely loved it. A lot of ppl talk about books you cannot put down and this is really one of them. Can't recommend highly enough
Dave T
Nov 11, 2016 Dave T rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's obviously not a true story, at least several parts of it.
Example, the two main characters manage to enter Malaysia without one passport, just cause the officer think foreigners look all the same. They didn't stamp passports around 2001? And what about the exit from Thailand, and the departure paper than needs to match someone's passport? After having been there longer than what a tourist visa allows?
Another example, they steal a Yacht of a Japanese businessman and they write a book about i
Jan 22, 2017 Rueben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very polarising backpacking memoir; if you're likely to be offended or disgusted by the gritty, dark and perverted side of travel, then this is not the book for you.
Whether Harris' accounts are fabricated in parts or not, I feel he addresses the elephant in the room by conveying his story (which—if at all true—is extraordinary) from the perspective of the scumbag backpacker. This particularly appealed to me as i've never been a huge fan of 'classic' travel writing, which I happen to f
Oct 02, 2016 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's like my life!
Oct 31, 2015 Georgie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Had to give up on this one. It's a fairly good story, and the descriptions of the various places the lads wind up is interesting, but after a while it's like a 14-hour long version* of 'Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents' mixed up with one of those Channel 5 documentaries about holiday makers getting themselves in deep crapola while abroad. All well and good for an hour or so in front of the telly, but you wouldn't want to sit through 14 blooming hours of it!

I think it was trying to be 'The Beach'
Jan 08, 2016 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
I certainly enjoy debauched travel writing and hope to someday create my own. I don't always enjoy the hipster posturing that goes along with it--the idea that those who travel are inherently cooler and more insightful than those who have sold out and decided to stay home (although as an expat in Southeast Asia I do like to tell myself occasionally that this is true)--and I sense a lot of this type of stance in this book.

While I was living in Egypt, a friend let me borrow this book. I started an
Nov 12, 2011 Tasha-Lynn rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: amanda hankins
Shelves: read-2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it's a cliche to talk about the journey we readers go on, but I think it's a reasonable compliment for this memoir because John Harris took me on a journey. This true story of his experience traveling for over a year across Southeast Asia was extremely visceral. I have been studying this region since the beginning of the year, and while I have learned a lot from other books, this one really put me there - in the good and bad ways.

Harris's prose is never flowery or tedious. His writing has
Marianne Kelly
Jan 31, 2016 Marianne Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read the Beach by Alex Garland? I loved the Beach, but this is the real deal. John meets Rick in Goa, and not caring much for India , somewhat implausibly follows him to Kho Phagn Nan, Thailand. I've been to a lot of the places in the book, but I certainly didn't see them in the light that the author does. Despite witnessing a Mafia murder, John and his friends, not realising the danger they're in, live in a beautiful house overlooking Hat Rin with their Thai girlfriends, hosting parties and end ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Louis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 08, 2015 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hesitated to read after seeing some of the reviews, but so glad I did. I can see why fans of Alex Garland's "The Beach" would enjoy this read, it's adventurous and intriguing following a young mans travel-tale in Thailand.
The characters in this book aren't particularly moralistic, so I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't at all entertained by the characters frequent drug and sex binges, however I personally found quite a bit of humour in the realities of this novel.
I was very entertained by thi
Charlotte Knaggs
I read this mainly for the Koh Phangan Had Rin setting, having been there on honeymoon. This is no great work of literature - the flat descriptions that fail to evoke any real sense of the places he visits make this a mediocre read. Every single one of the characters is pretty unlikeable too, so it's hard to care very much how much trouble they're in. The book's saving grace is the adventure story. I doubt it's entirely true but it's a wittily told page turner and sufficiently kept my interest t ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Santhanam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adventure packed travelling. Lots of synchronocities ranging from meeting the right people to being in a right place at right time.. leading to both good and bad (which add to a real experience)... kind of encourages for backpackers to look forward to thier journey into the unknown.. Trusting not the money, not the security, not the people's company, but trusting the universe.. is enough to have a good time!!

I loved the book!
I’m not really sure why this book has been compared to The Beach as the similarities begin and end in Thailand, and even then their link is simply location and perhaps the burning desire to find places off the beaten path to call home. This book is far more about adventure and the authors craving to leave the 9 to 5 behind. Whereas Garland was content to substitute one routine for another, here the author is in constant search for forward momentum and new experiences.
Lewis Brown
I'm not going to say this is a good book, it's not. And it petered out long before its hurried ending.

But the stuff in Thailand is hilarious and nerve racking, and there are a couple of really heartbreaking moments in there too. Any book that can make you feel those is worth reading, and if you've ever travelled through Asia or Australia, you won't regret it.
Sep 29, 2011 Brianmefc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If , like me, you were a member of the backpacking generation you will enjoy this tale and probably revive some of your old memories from your own travels. There are some slight exagerations in the story but in an industry where there is a serious lack of good backpacking stories this one is a gem.
Nov 17, 2012 H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, travel
another inspiring peice of travel writing. I would say if you're a fan of 'the beach' by Alex Garland you will also enjoy this book. It was a simple and interesting read that kept my attention without waver.
Dave Archer
Super easy travel book, great to reinvigorate the travel bug especially for an interest in Asia. Was fun to reminisce my own adventures in similar locales but overall a lack of character development and anything beyond the surface prevents me from recommending it to others.
Aug 16, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, but slightly disappointed with the ending. Also - wondering why nothing more was said about the poor bloke they lost on the Yacht. After the horrific event, he wasn't mentioned again (other than a very brief musing)!
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John[19 spaces]Harris

At the age of 18, after a variety of dismal package holidays, John Harris bought a ticket to Egypt; things would never be the same again. Following a few years of on-off travel, mostly in Africa, he decided to go a stage further and work in the developing world, joining VSO to work as a building instructor in Nigeria.

Back in London, life proved uninspiring and the draw of dist
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“Work is a four letter word. It conjures up the same image the world over getting up in the morning to do something you don't want to do, day in day out. After a few months work, or years, depending on the person's primeval yearning for freedom, you feel like a robot: alarm clock, get up, wash, catch the train, work, go home, watch TV, go to bed. In that one sentence I've probably just described the daily routine of 95% of the working population of England. It's the same in every other developed country in the world. Routine is the cause of most marriage break ups and social discontent.” 9 likes
“So, in what we considered the true spirit of freedom and the timeless nature of our travel plans, a few months after the sacrifice of Dave's airline ticket, the three of us ceremoniously burnt our watches, too.” 1 likes
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