Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix

I love a good travel story – and I’ve made the LibGuide Armchair Traveler to prove it! Most recently I read Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix, and I highly recommend it for an entertaining journey and an education on the bathroom traditions in different parts of the world. It’s kind of hard to describe, but here’s the publisher’s version:

Matthew Félix is not a luxury traveler. But traveling on a budget fails to explain why so many of his most unforgettable experiences take place on the toilet, in the tub, or under the shower. From Matthew’s nightmare while relieving himself in Morocco to his unorthodox bathing practices in Paris and Istanbul to the Dead Sea shower incident that led to an arrest, Porcelain Travels is sometimes hilarious, occasionally shocking, and always entertaining.

What I liked was that there were so many levels on which to enjoy it. The toilet and bathing experiences are, for the most part, relatable and humorous (and fascinatingly informative where they’re not relatable); the various locations are a great source of escapism and global knowledge, and the short vignette chapters are engaging and easily readable. Less enjoyable was the author’s somewhat pretentious attitude on some things, but his humility in relating these episodes was a good balance for any sanctimoniousness.

If you’re a devoted travel reader, love cultural comparisons (Europeans’ horror at the existence of the garbage disposal, e.g.), or cannot travel without knowing the bathroom situation, this is a good book for you. Similar vibes include Bill Bryson of A Walk in the Woods fame and David Sedaris, known for Me Talk Pretty One Day.

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