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Premise: Initially living a sedentary life in the United States, Greg Ellifritz got the travel bug late in life and couldn’t get enough of it. When he isn’t working in law enforcement or teaching self-defense skills, he’s racking up new globe-trotting experiences. His first book, Choose Adventure, details all the travel safety tips and tricks he picked up along the way.
411: Choose Adventure begins by pointing out its target audience. Ellifritz quotes a fellow traveler friend at the beginning, “If I was going to write this book, it would only have one page. In fact, it would only have one sentence … ‘Don’t do stupid stuff.’” This is completely true, but Ellifritz realizes that there can be a number of intricacies along the way. Maybe you’ve been to Mexico a couple times and want to expand your horizons. Or you’ve lived overseas your entire life, but want to see things from a different perspective. Either way, this book is going to open your eyes. It’ll help you think about self-defense situations in abstract ways, pieces of gear that could prove crucial in an emergency, and awkward social scenarios, to name a few examples.
If you’ve never traveled outside of the United States, but have an inkling to, don’t start by reading this Choose Adventure. It’ll scare your pants off, and you’ll be too paranoid to go anywhere. Every situation will seem to be compounded by the next problem or situation that Ellifritz brings up in the text. Instead, you need to go somewhere, make a few mistakes, return to the book, and then realize how you can and will do better on your next foray into the world.
I’ve been traveling since my family moved to Thailand when I was young. For me, traveling isn’t an exotic errand as much as a way of existing. Yet Choose Adventure was still a very welcoming refresher in terms of thinking about traveling more responsibly and efficiently. It includes tips like faster ways to dry wet clothing while in a hotel or Airbnb room without a dryer (Hotels chapter), realizing that most airport fatalities from a violent terrorist attack occur before the security check-in (Airports chapter), making improvised weapons and the legal ramifications of using one internationally (Improvised Weapons chapter), and even what to do if caught in a volcanic eruption (Surviving Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Other Natural Disasters chapter).
I found myself nodding in approval of Ellifritz’s advice in Choose Adventure, and when I started to think he left something out entirely, I usually saw it covered in the next chapter. If I were to write on the same subject matter, I’d be more precise in some areas where I have more experience, or make things regionally and culturally more appropriate where I’ve spent more time. But as an overall travel book, I know I couldn’t match the breadth of material that Ellifritz discusses.
Verdict: From dealing with active terrorist attacks or cramped legs on an airplane ride, Ellifritz is a very thorough instructor, breaking complex situations down into digestible portions. Instead of beating around the bush, he’s also very blunt in his conclusions. As an example, in the Kidnapping section he writes, “When we look at Westerners kidnapped by Jihadi terrorists since 2001, 60% were murdered by their captors. Another 25% were killed during rescue attempts by American or British armed forces (statistics from a Rand Corp. study). If you stand an 85% chance of being killed if taken hostage, why not resist?” In many instances he cites statistics and resource centers, making the Choose Adventure more of a studied reference than one man droning on about his opinions.
However, this is where I recommend some wisdom in reading through the advice from Ellifritz. Some of the
material is just never going to apply to you. Ellifritz doesn’t really vacation in Siberia, so you might be out of luck for cold-weather tips. I skimmed through the sections that would never apply to me, but paid particular interest to the points that actually changed my perspective on traveling.
If you purchase the Kindle version of Choose Adventure, the photographs in it will be too small and very grainy, especially on older devices. If you’re reading it on a color Kindle or a PC, the photographs are too small and their captions tend to wrap around the digital pages making reading them somewhat cumbersome. I think it would’ve been better to have a center section of photographs, or just not include photographs at all. Still, the price for a Kindle read is going to be worth it for the amount of knowledge this book conveys.
Title: Choose Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places
Author: Greg Ellifritz