Hitchhiking in the axis of evil by thumb through Iran, Irak and Afghanistan

Reviewed on , book by Juan Pablo Villarino

To an outsider who’s never hitch-hiked, hitch-hiking from Istanbul to Islamabad in 2006 seems bonkers. Which, for some reason, is exactly why Juan does it: to ‘document hospitality and confront stereotypes.’ The warmth he meets in Syria, Iraq, and others, often from people who have little, is heart-warming. Juan is clearly well-read, preferring to discuss ‘the world situation’ with his hosts. I think it’s easy to read between the lines and leave with the impression that Juan thinks travelling this way is ‘superior’, however, I don’t get that impression. He doesn’t mock resorts, ‘holidays’, or others—and if you listen to an interview with him, it’s clear he’s not that kind of person.

3 stars means I liked it, but that I’m not raving about it. Under special circumstances I might recommend it if someone is fascinated with the topic. I found it an enjoyable, easy read, but nothing remarkable. He gets a level or two below just passing through the country, but for it to be truly excellent he’d need to go further. An example of such book is Knud Holmboe’s ‘Desert Encounter, about a Dane who converted to Islam and crossed through North Africa in the 1920s. I don’t see this work aging as well as Desert Encounter, despite the similar intention. No regrets, but not remarkably memorable either. If you’re at all intrigued by the premise, pick up Holmboe’s book instead—if you’re hooked, proceed with this one!