64. William Sutcliffe; 'Are You Experienced?' Author on India, Israel the Bolivian Salt Flats and Creating the Travel Book of a Generation - The Big Travel Podcast

Episode Array
May 7 , 2019

64. William Sutcliffe; ‘Are You Experienced?’ Author on India, Israel the Bolivian Salt Flats and Creating the Travel Book of a Generation

William Sutcliffe’s hilariously cynical take on backpackers and travellers, ‘Are You Experienced?’ is still inspiring globe-trotters all over the world. He instantly regretted a solo trip to Pakistan to get the train to Beijing, was horrified by the realities of life on the West Bank, ate nothing but marmalade sandwiches for days when travelling to the remote salt flats in Bolivia and yes a lot of the stories in Are You Experienced are autobiographical. And yes I do dare to ask him about that pretty graphic description of being unwell in India. William Sutcliffe is on the Big Travel Podcast.


On this episode we cover: 


His new book The Gifted, the Talented and Me

How Adrian Mole and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are still great books for teens

How living with teenagers is funny

The era of sending postcards and Poste Restante

How social media is stressful

The difference between travel pre and post internet

How travel used to be a way to reinvent yourself

How you can reinvent yourself publicly every day

How people make friends fast when travelling

Lonely Planet being a guide to finding other Westerners

Receiving letters in Kathmandu

The lack of self-awareness in 18 year old travellers

Travellers being at their most pretentious

The two ways which travellers react to India

How Lonely Planet still recommends his book over 20 years later

Monish Rajesh saying it’s her favourite book about India

Lisa visiting India in luxury

How India can be hard work

Lisa’s first time ever asking a guest whether they’ve s*it themselves in a hostel

How travellers use the book to put them off India

It being easier to go to Spain than India

His life-changing solo trip to Pakistan

Saving cash for travel by working in HMV

The weird travel grant

The Karakoram Highway built by China and Pakistan

The long-standing dispute over the India China border

Wanting to shake up his happy home life

A one way ticket to Karachi and a return via Beijing to Moscow

Russian invading Afghanistan

Landing in Karachi, age 19, and being terrified

The actually very hospitable ‘dangerous’ lands of the Peshawar in Pakistan

Lisa fighting of an ear-cleaner in Bangalore

Ear drum piercing versus Hepatitis

Travelling to the Khyber Pass

The German gun fan who took him to the gun town

Not wanting to shoot a gun in the mountains the Mujahideen 

Lisa being offered a gun in Phnom Penh 

The incredible desert frontier town of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uyghur in China’s far west

The oppression of Uighur muslims in China

The atmospheric Kashgar Sunday Bazaar

Those travel moments out of Kashgar

The weird awakening crossing the border from Pakistan to China

Saddam as superman ‘death to America’ on a t shirt

Feeling unwelcome in communist China

British and American politeness

A certain admiration for a total lack of any ingratiation

Cycling towards Tiananmen Square in a huge boulevard of bikes

How hardships when travelling can make you feel good about yourself

The ‘deep thoughts’ of teenagers

His book The Wall based on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

Feeling he needed an opinion on Israel coming from a Lithuanian Jewish family

The max exodus of the Pogroms from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia

His family moving from Lithuania to South Africa

His mother’s white South African guilt

Travel to Israel, Egypt Sinai Peninsula and Jordan

Staying in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian side

The world increasingly being divided into haves and have nots

Being horrified by the brutality and injustice of the occupation

‘The power of the un-fired gun’

The Israeli hilltop settlements

Green Olives tours and revelations

Lisa taking the boat from Israel to Egypt and crossing very serious borders

What the Israel/Palestinian wall really looks like up close

The Salar de Uyuni, amid the Andes in southwest Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flat

Everything being the size of Wales

The town of Atacama where it hasn’t rained for 200 years

A remote 3 day drive through the desert

Nothing to eat but bread and marmalade

Feeling like you’re on a U2 album cover

His wife, author Maggie O’Farrell

Taking it in turns to write and look after the kids

The scene in Are You Experienced when Dave is listening to Pink Floyds Comfortably Numb

Being a massive music fan and listening to music when writing

Switching off from music when travelling

His perfect travel music moment with the amazing drumming from a wedding party in Rajasthan