Image courtesy of Jonty Wilde
Most of us come to Michael Palin through his work as a comic actor (in the role of dead parrot salesman or otherwise), but at this point almost as many know him second as a founding member of Monty Python, and first as an affable globetrotter. That part of his career began in 1988, when he hosted the Earth-circumnavigating BBC travel series Around the World in 80 Days. (See an episode here.) Its success has led him, over the subsequent 27 years, onto further (and farther-flung) televised journeys: from the North Pole to the South, around the Pacific Rim, in the adventurous footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, across the Sahara, up the Himalayas, across the "new" central and eastern Europe, around the world again, and most recently through Brazil.
Not content to set a high watermark for travel television, Palin has also written a companion book for each series, lavishly collecting maps, pictures, and his own travel diaries. Those last reveal a more nuanced side of "the nicest chap in Britain," whose famously easygoing, deferential, and unsurprisingly good-humored persona place him so well to deal with the world's staggering variety of people, places, and inconveniences. "I can summon up nothing but resignation at the thought of cooking with the locals all morning, then having to listen to music and songs I don’t understand for the rest of the afternoon," he writes after waking up on yet another island, in an entry excerpted in last year's Travelling to Work, the latest published volume of his life's diaries. "And, worst of all, having to look as if I’m enjoying it."
But these books also reveal that most of the time, Palin really is enjoying it. His insatiable curiosity (not to mention his inexorable production schedule) drives him continuously ahead, a curiosity in which you, too can share now that he's made all these books free to read online at palinstravels.co.uk. Click on the links/titles below, and then look for the prompts that say "Discover the Series Here" and, below that, "Start Reading the Book."
- Around the World in 80 Days
- Pole to Pole
- Full Circle
- Hemingway Adventure
- New Europe
- 80 Days Revisited
And if you make a free account at the site, it will even allow you to you keep virtual "bookmarks" in as many of the books as you like, guaranteeing that you won't get lost amidst this wealth of travel content. But if you choose to follow Palin's example and actually get out there into every corner of the world, well, no such anti-lostness guarantees exist — but as every fan of Palin's Travels knows, those very complications make it worthwhile. As least you won't have a five-man crew trailing behind.
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.