In November 1889, journalist Nellie Bly went on a journey around the world to beat the record of Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. Nellie managed to complete her trip in only 72 days, beating the fictional character’s record.
The book that I’m talking about today, Around the World in 72 Days, is Nellie’s records of her journey around the world. She talks about the people she meets and the living conditions in places that she had visited on her trip.
It was about three years after I found out about Nellie Bly that I read her book Around the World in 72 Days. I found out that the library had a copy, however, it was an adapted-for-children version. The book was larger than an A4 paper and had a hard cover. It was short as the editor only took out the exciting part of the story and added a whole lot of photos.
While I liked the annotate version, I knew that I had to read the original to really get the story.
Eventually, I found the original version of the book online. Since the book is now in the public domain, you can read it for free legally.
Unfortunately, while I have proclaimed Nellie Bly as my travel hero, I didn’t quite like the full-length version of book.
Since it was written about 120 years ago, all political correctness that we have today is not in the book. Nellie felt like a poisonous person who hated what differed from her home in the U.S.. She bad-mouthed things about the developing world while praising developed countries (including Japan) to the skies.
I could imagine her audience eagerly devouring her story and laughing at the expense of the poor people. Still, I wasn’t comfortable with the image of Nellie Bly being a mean-spirited person.
Re-reading Around the World in 72 Days
Despite my mild dislike for the book, I wanted to review it for The Travelling Squid because I want everyone to know what a bad ass Nellie Bly was.
So I went back to my Kindle and reread the book from where I had left off during my second reading. I followed Nellie through her trip to Sri Lanka, through Asia and then back to the U.S..
This time ’round, I was less judgmental about Nellie being judgmental (the irony) so I enjoyed her adventures.
Instead of frowning upon her complaints, I tried to see the story from her point of view:
- She was from an era where the term political correctness wasn’t even coined.
- Information about other countries was scarce at that time.
- Her audience wants to know how life is different around the world.
With these thoughts in mind, I followed her on her whirlwind trip. I began to understand what made her write the way she did and I sympathised with her. I felt anxious for her in parts where she thought she might be behind schedule and happy where she discovers that she can make it in time.
During this second reading, I’ve grown fond of Nellie’s snarky comments about her fellow passengers, her determination to win the race or die than to lose the bet.
Who should read this book?
- People who are looking for something written in the past about travels.
- People who are looking for a real-life travel hero.
- People who want inspiration for doing a grand trip.
- People who want to know how it is like travelling in the age of ships.
If you are curious about the book, you can read Around the World in 72 Days online for free legally.
Liau Yun Qing is a writer, explorer and glutton. She finished her 4.5-month round the world trip in August 2013 and is now getting reacquainted with normal life. She runs a travel blog at YQtravelling.com.