Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington by Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

The companion guide to the hysterical television show of the same name, in which Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant force their arrestingly simple pal Karl Pilkington on a global journey

"He'd have been happier in medieval times in a village where you didn't travel beyond the local community."  —Stephen Merchant

A cult celebrity due to his role in The Ricky Gervais Show, the most-downloaded podcast ever, Karl Pilkington has been accused of being a comic creation, so unburdened is he by complex thought—but that is truly just him. The trio's newest project mines Karl massive provinciality: put simply, Karl is not big on traveling. Given the choice, he'll go on vacation to Devon or Wales or, if pushed, eat English food on a package tour of the Mediterranean. So what happened when he was convinced by Gervais and Merchant to go on an epic adventure to see the Seven Wonders of the World? Does travel truly broaden the mind? Find out in Karl Pilkington's hilarious travel diaries.

Karl Pilkington is one of my favorite travel hosts and you'll find out why when you read this book.

An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington is basically a behind-the-scenes look at the first season of An Idiot Abroad. Karl discusses his adventures and thoughts about the things, places and people he encounters on his travels to the Seven Wonders.

Now, where to start? Well, if you haven't seen An Idiot Abroad or the subsequent seasons, then you should know that this is not your typical travel show. That is, the show and this book doesn't always present countries in a positive light the way most travel shows and hosts do. The closest, I think, to Karl's approach is Anthony Bourdain although Anthony is slightly more positive, if you can believe it. Karl is funnier, though.

What makes Karl funny, I think, is how straightforward he is about everything. He speaks his mind, and while it sometimes results in slightly ignorant or culturally insensitive comments, he occasionally also has some insightful things to say.

This book reads more like it was written by your frank and sometimes surly uncle than it is by a travel host. The pictures are sort of like the photos ordinarily people take on vacations too, and that's a good thing. This book feels very accessible as it doesn't sugarcoat anything and is probably closer to what your experience would be like if you went to the place yourself. Of course, your accommodations may be better since Steve and Ricky seem to be trying to get a rise out of Karl by usually housing him in not-so-nice hostels and places.

If you enjoyed the show An Idiot Abroad, it goes without saying that you should absolutely get this book.


  1. It paints a realistic portrait of the places Karl visits.
  2. Karl is hilarious.
  3. Occasionally, Karl can be quite brilliant.

  1. You might get offended by some of the statements if it's your country and you're sensitive. 

They do it in Thai restaurants in London. You ask for a drink, and it comes in a glass with loads of seaweed and pebbles in it like a scene from Finding Nemo. 

  1. You think Karl Pilkington is hilarious.
  2. You like travel shows that tell it like it is.
  3. You enjoyed An Idiot Abroad. 




Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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