On a recent cruise through the Caribbean Sea, I read Dave Seminara’s book, Mad Travelers: A Tale of Wanderlust, Greed and the Quest to Reach the Ends of the Earth. Overall, this was a really good read, but it seemed to pack a lot in. I wish the author would have focused on a few topics rather than almost every single topic related to travel.
Seminara starts his book off by describing a young wealthy British man, William Baekeland, who is intent on traveling to the ends of the Earth and seemingly had all of the resources necessary to do so even at the young age of 23. He has been to places that most people have never even heard of, in addition to off-limits islands and war-torn countries.
Throughout the telling of William’s story, Seminara touches on several different topics of travel including the discussion of whether or not someone can be addicted to travel. He highlights one man who has been to all 50 U.S. states, 32 Chinese provinces, 27 regions of France, and on and on. If a new region or state has been added, he’ll make sure to visit it too!
I feel that Seminara briefly mentions the fact that it is a privilege to travel. Not everyone has the funds to travel or enough vacation days. He does recognize that most of the individuals on the most-traveled lists and well-traveled lists are white men, but I wish this was made more explicit. I do have to give him props for even acknowledging that there are hardly any women on these lists.
In fact, what does it even mean to travel and to see a place? For example, do you just have to step foot in the U.S. state or do you need to do something specific like stay at least a night or visit at least one landmark? Seminara writes about how some people just want to count countries and step foot in places. They don’t really travel within the country or state, but they just step foot in it in order to cross it off their list. Personally, I think you should try to stay at least a day in a new place to really count it off your list as having visited it.
Seminara also discusses how humans used to be very nomadic, but are now quite sedentary. However, if people nowadays live like nomads, they are looked down upon because they are not doing what people normally do. People expect others to settle down and live sedentary lives. People who are constantly traveling seem to be outliers in our society, and people wonder how they can afford their travels and how they can live without having a permanent address.
Overall, I do recommend reading this book, as I highly enjoyed it. It was neat to also reflect on my own travels and to think about whether or not I am addicted to travel. I love to travel, but I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted. I can survive without traveling, i.e. the global pandemic that started in 2020. That time was really tough, but I survived. I do sometimes catch myself thinking about future travel plans and where I want to go next, but I wouldn’t say that those thoughts control my mind and affect my life to where I have a constant urge to travel.
This was a really good book that covered a lot of different aspects of traveling, but sometimes I felt that the author was trying to cram too many topics into the book at once. Also, the overarching story about William Baekeland’s travel scams took a weird turn at the end of the book, which kind of derailed Seminara’s work. I do recommend you read this book if you think you’re addicted to traveling or would like to learn more about a scammer (especially if you’ve enjoyed learning about Anna Delvey and the ‘Tinder Swindler’!)