In the last post I discussed Idiot Abroad Series 1 where Karl visits the seven wonders of the world. In addition to the documentary that was made, Karl also kept a travel diary, logging his thoughts and experiences. I found a UK edition on Amazon and picked it up after watching the show. It’s a great addition to what’s seen during the series..
Karl started keeping a diary when he visited Gran Canaria years ago. Passages of it were read on The Ricky Gervais XFM radio show and were absolutely some of my favorite moments from the podcasts. This diary is different as it is more observations of a trip rather than observations of everyday life.
Much of what is said in the diary is said in voice over or interview on the show, but there were some real surprises.
The first surprise was the episodes weren’t shown in the order they were filmed. The diary starts with Karl getting his shots before travel and heading…to Egypt. Those of us who watched the show on TV or on DVD were probably expecting China to be first as it’s the first episode shown. He then goes to Brazil, India, Mexico, China, Jordan, and finally ending with Peru, just about the only episode shown in the order it was produced. I’m not sure why they were shown out of order, but seeing the journey from beginning to in from Karl’s personal perspective provides a better view of his travels.
There were also sections Karl mentions in his diary that do not appear in the show or in the deleted scenes. One was Karl learning to drive a rickshaw in India. Anyone who knows how much Karl likes bikes would have known how well he’d do that but he was told he drove too fast by the instructor. Another memorable incident is the dog farm he visited in China. Dogs are raised for food and sold for that purpose. Karl raises the concept that cows and chickens are raised for food and it doesn’t seem so different. He found it more strange that the owner of the farm had a dog as a pet that he would never cook and eat.
Other items were expansions on things we did see in the show, but provided a better glimpse at Karl and his personality. One moment, that was actually rather touching, was Karl’s interactions with Ashek, the rickshaw driver and restauranteur in India. In the show it appeared as Karl didn’t want to stay with Ashek in the back of his shop and jumped at the chance to stay at a nicer place owned by Ashek’s friend when it was offered. In the book (which contains a number of transcriptions of recorded conversations Karl had, including interactions with locals and phone calls from Steve and Ricky) you see Karl’s compassion for Ashek. Ashek was ill, barely showed up to meet the Idiot Abroad team, and yet still worked both his jobs. Instead of Karl immediately leaving Ashek’s crowded one-room home as shown in the program, Karl initially offers Ashek the nicer house. He tells him, “How about this: I leave you to have a nice night’s sleep? You’ve been working hard all day. Why don’t you stay at your friend’s house, and we’ll stay here…I want you to have a bit of goodness in your life.” Ashek, true to his customary hospitality and courtesy, refuses repeatedly and they eventually go to the nicer residence.
The diary, to me, only works as a companion to the show. It might make sense and be a fun read for those who haven’t seen the show, but in my perspective some of the fun is left out if you can’t picture where Karl is and what he’s doing. It does provide a much better view of the entire show, and is a terrific addition for fans, not only for what it adds to what’s on screen, but to what it adds to what fans may know of Karl’s personality. It’s also a VERY quick read and well laid out. The beginning of each “wonder’s” chapter has a famous quote from a philosopher, historian, or explorer about the wonder juxtaposed with one of Karl’s making for a great intro to each locale.
I’ve seen and enjoyed the second season of Idiot Abroad and Karl kept a diary for that trip too. I know, having enjoyed this one, I’ll definitely get that one too.
If you were unfamiliar with the weird world of Karl Pilkington I hope this was a decent introduction. It’s a consistently funny, sometimes enlightening, frequently confusing, and always entertaining place to visit!