5 Ways to Carry a Goat by Ben Groundwater

Courtesy UQP

5 Ways to Carry a Goat by Australian travel writer Ben Groundwater is a
blogger’s world tour of 14 countries solely through the kindness of strangers.
Groundwater writes Fairfax Media’s popular travel blog The Backpacker and
has thousands of readers scattered around the globe, all of them faceless.

The premise for this book came from the idea that he somehow wanted to
put faces to the names of his readers.
He realised the best way to do this was to get out from behind his desk
and visit his readers. Groundwater then posted a plea on his blog for anyone
who wouldn’t mind hosting him and showing him their home from a local’s
perspective. 
The offers (400 plus) came in thick and fast. People offered spare rooms,
couches (sofas), resorts, wedding invites and the opportunity to see parts of
the world Groundwater had never seen before.
“I’d sleep on couches, beds, floors, kennels … If someone was kind enough
to put a roof over my head. I was game enough to go meet them. And I’d just
pray they were who they said they were.”
Armed with a rough itinerary, his laptop, his sense of humour and the
addresses of 22 strangers in 14 countries, Groundwater left Sydney for a four-month
circumnavigation of the globe.
Where Does a
Travel Blogger Travel?
As a travel writer, Groundwater has done the obvious and travelled a lot.
He writes about long stints working and travelling in many places, so how to
choose?
After weeding his way through the 400 responses to his blog plea to host
a friendly and mildly alcoholic writer from Australia, he went for a mix: a
scattering of big cities, a few places off the beaten track – some he had
visited before and some he had always wanted to see. The rest on the list were
ones he would have never gone to if it wasn’t for the offer. Bangladesh was on
that list.
What Are 5
Ways to Carry a Goat?
Groundwater’s travel to Ethiopia is where the title of the book comes
from. In Addis Ababa he teams up with two antipodeans who describe themselves
as uranium adventurers, who drink and smoke a lot, live next to a goat abattoir
and spend a lot of time relaxing and thinking about the important things in
life, like how many ways there are to carry a goat home.
For the record there’s the one-handed grab by one person, then by two
people; next is the wheelbarrow; the reverse wheelbarrow, and then if you are
tough, the sling the whole goat over your shoulder and walk home approach.
Tell Us What You Really Think
Although
I really enjoyed Groundwater’s journey, I felt that he held back sometimes on
what he really felt about the people he was staying with and the places he was
in. I wanted to shout, “Come on Ben, what’s he really like?”
But
let’s face it, it’s hard to say mean things about people when they have invited
you into their homes and their lives through the goodness of their hearts.
The
only time this seems okay (for some) is when you don’t give a hoot about the
people you are writing about, there’s no chance on earth that they are ever going
to read what you have written, or they have passed on from this life.
In
this case, it fails on three accounts. Groundwater is a nice guy and obviously
cares about people; secondly, everyone who put their hand up to house him was
hanging to read what he wrote about them, and thirdly, all seemed to be healthy
and alive at the end of the book.
Groundwater
survived his trip to tell the tale and is still blogging much to the joy of the
many faceless out their in the virtual world. 
He has a few more real friends now.
5 Ways to Carry a Goat (University of Queensland Press, 2010, ISBN:
9780702237775, 340 pages).
My rating: ★★★

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