When people talk about travel writers, many names come to mind, from Bill Bryson to Marco Polo. One name that does not often pop up is Michael Crichton, most famous for his science and medical fiction thrillers. Crichton’s fiction, though often grounded in technology or medical breakthroughs, involves reality-bending adventures such as dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, time travel in Timeline, and aliens in Sphere. But Crichton also wrote a non-fiction adventure story: his 1988 book Travels, which details his travel to Los Angeles after leaving Harvard Medical School.
The book recounts his early writing career and his subsequent travels across the globe. From the heights of Kilimanjaro and the Mayan pyramids, to the depths of the shark-filled waters of Tahiti, Crichton uses his copious talent for gripping narratives to recount the personal adventures of a man seeking new experiences. Crichton’s writing chronicles his inner travels as well, focusing on forays into mysticism, exorcism, channeling, and psychic events.
Though travel writing may seem like a unique and specialized genre, many authors well known in other genres have published their own travel accounts. At it’s core, travel writing is the art of communicating one’s experience of the world. Michael Crichton is just one of these “hidden travel writers,” who used his flair for the thrilling, dramatic, and other-worldly to translate his physical and mental journeys into engaging prose.
(Michael Crichton, Travels. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.)