True Tales of a Traveller Volume Two: Culture Shock & Other Stories – Alix Lee

The book begins in late 1984 with the sixth tale in the series overall, Culture Shock. This story finds the young traveller (myself) taken from the relative orderliness of a life in London where he had been attempting, with mixed results, to pursue a career in travel (related in the fifth story of the series, A Career in Travel), and throws him into the furious assault on the senses that constituted life in the Indian capital, Delhi, at that time.

His attempt to integrate his love for travel into a regular, settled lifestyle in London had already begun to unravel even before he left the UK. After only a couple of weeks in India, his career as a travel industry employee has slipped into the past, replaced by an even more vivid and overpowering version of his pre-existing career as a full-time traveller.

The second story of this volume, Just A Businessman is set in India-administered Kashmir. At nearly 17,000 words, this account constitutes a lengthy short story which may need more than one sitting to read. In addition to being a travel story, Just A Businessman is also a story about religious and ethnic conflict and political upheavals, and the extents to which these can affect the life of a traveller, or an outsider.

At first, I was reluctant to include this story in the series, for fear of possibly incriminating people who may have violated local laws of the time, but have since learnt that such consequences are no longer possible, and the story can now be told without fear of consequences.

Overlanding (Part One) is the third story in this volume, and at over 46,000 words the longest story of the series so far, for one of the shortest periods of actual travel.

Of all my travels in the 1980s, in terms of time spent, undoubtably no journey made such a deep and lasting impression on me as this overland trip from Karachi to Rotterdam. Not only did it unceremoniously blow away many of my own preconceived notions of life in Pakistan and Iran, it was also a harsh lesson for me as a traveller in the virtues of being prepared for any journey into terra incognita. Additionally, the first part of the journey, from Karachi to the Turkish border with Iran, was relatively dangerous, not due to involving difficult terrain, but rather to man-made hazards. But overall, the journey turned out to be something I originally had never suspected for a moment it would be: an intensive course in the follies of racial prejudice and ethnic chauvinism.