Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest today Albert Podell. Albert is the author of Around The World in Fifty Years: My adventure to Every Country on Earth.
Albert has been an editor at Playboy and three national outdoor magazines and has written more than 250 freelance articles. He was co-leader of the Trans World Record Expedition and co-author of Who Needs A Road?, an adventure classic still in print after nearly five decades.
He holds a B.A. in government from Cornell, was the graduate fellow of the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago, and received a law degree from New York University.
Al lives in New York and is an all-around outdoorsman—skier, boarder, mountaineer, climber, camper, hiker, biker, archer, angler, surfer, kayaker, scuba diver, windsurfer, long-distance swimmer, and adventurous vegetable gardener.
Norm: Good day Albert and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started travelling? How many countries have you visited and which three are the most memorable and why?
Albert: My parents were too poor and unadventurous to travel and led what I regarded as a boring life, which made me resolve not to do the same. I was also influenced by collecting stamps as a kid, which fascinated me and made we want to get to the source of those wonderful colored bits of perforated paper.
I have been to all 196 recognized countries, plus six which no longer exist, plus 20 territories and dependencies, 49 U.S. states, and every province in Canada.
The three most memorable countries I visited were:
France, where I first fell deeply in love with foreign travel.
Morocco, where I fell deeply in love with adventure travel, and
Malta, where I feel deeply in love with a beautiful vacationing Russian college student -- with whom I traveled for the next five years.
Norm: What travel authors or books have influenced you and why?
Albert: Marco Polo, Thor Heyerdahl, and Jack Kerouac. Marco, because he pioneered the genre, Thor, because he understood the need to take reasonable risks to achieve a worthy goal and get a great story, and Jack, because as soon as I read On the Road, his enthusiasm was so irresistible that I had to hit the road myself, and did.
Norm: What were the three most dangerous situations you encountered in your travels and why?
Albert 1. Coming within one minute of being lynched in Pakistan. 2. Trapped between Cape Buffalo of crocodiles in Botswana. 3. Visiting Mogadishu, the most dangerous city in the world.
And let me add
Meeting beautiful women who wanted me to stop traveling and settle down with them.
The whys and wherefores on each of these dangers are fully detailed in the book.
Norm: I understand you ate rats in Ghana. How did this come about and how did they taste?
Albert: It first came about because it was lunchtime and the rats were grilling on a roadside barbecue.
They tasted delicious, with flesh like chicken and a flavor that derived from wherever they lived. If they lived n a sugar cane farm, they tasted like sugar, if they lived in a pineapple plantation, they tasted like pineapple.
If they lived in the New York City subway tunnels, I have yet to try them, but they probably taste like a combination of pizza, hot dogs, and Dunkin doughnuts.
Norm: What motivated you to write Around The World in Fifty Years: My adventure to Every Country on Earth?
Albert: My friends.
When I began my quest in earnest I had no certainly at all that I would succeed because there were so many difficulties and obstacles, so I never thought of writing a book because I never knew if there would be any achievement worth writing about.
I did send lengthy emails every couple of weeks while on the road, and after several years, my friends started to urge me to use them as the basis for a book because they thought they were interesting, informative, and exciting.
When I completed my final country, more and more friends urged me to write a book so I could share my adventures and observations with the world. As I was starting to consider the idea, one of these friends, a magazine editor, forwarded a batch of my dispatches to a literary agent, who persuaded me to write a book, and the result will be in bookstores on March 23.
Norm: Could you tell our readers a little about Around the World in Fifty Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth?
Albert: To provide a modicum of modesty – not my strongest quality – let me answer in the third person. The book is the inspiring story of an ordinary guy who achieved two great goals that others had told him were impossible -- first by setting a record for the longest automobile journey ever made around the world -- in the course of which he blasted his way out of minefields, survived a breakdown atop the Peak of Death, came within seconds of being lynched in Pakistan, and lost three of the five men who started with him, two to disease, one to the Vietcong.\
After that -- although it took him 47 more years -- the author set another record by going to every country on earth. He achieved this by surviving riots, revolutions, civil wars, trigger-happy child soldiers, voodoo priests, robbers, pickpockets, corrupt cops, and Cape buffalo. He went around, under, or through every kind of earthquake, cyclone, tsunami, volcanic eruption, snowstorm, and sandstorm that Nature threw at him. He ate everything from old camel meat and rats to dung beetle and the brain of a live monkey. And he overcame attacks by crocodiles, hippos, anacondas, giant leeches, flying crabs -- and several beautiful girlfriends who insisted that he stop this nonsense and marry them.
It’s a remarkable and meaningful tale of quiet courage, dogged persistence, undying determination, and the author’s uncanny ability to extricate himself from one perilous situation after another -- and return with some of the most memorable, frightening, and hilarious adventures you have ever read.
Norm: What do you want your book to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
I want it to entertain the readers, frighten them, enlighten them, enchant them, and inform them, make them think, and impel them to get out and see the world.
If possible, I would also like the book to reach at least number four on the best-seller lists, make me a million dollars, get turned into a block buster film with Hugh Jackman playing me, lead to lasting world peace, wipe out racism, religious intolerance, and the asset gap, and put an end to Global Warming.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Albert: The two most difficult parts were fighting with my editor, who wanted to remove all the sexual scenes to sanitize it for prudish readers, and finding a title that could encompass it all. I went from Between a Croc and a Hard Place to How I Survived to 196, to Adventure of a Lifetime, to the final title, Around the World in 50 Years.
Other big difficulties were..
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Albert: I learned that it is not an easy way to make a living. As an attorney, I was paid $400 an hour for whatever I wrote – letters, complains, briefs. As an author, I will be lucky if I earn five dollars an hour when you divide the advance by four years of hard work writing and another nine months of marketing..
Norm: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
Albert: I have three in the works.
One is my Survival Manual for the Adventurous International Traveler, which St. Martin’s Press will publish as on e-book in March.
Second is a coffee-table
book titled The Songs That Shaped America. It will feature the
lyrics of, and an essay about, each of the 150-200 songs that most
influenced, shaped, changed, instilled, or reinforced American
attitudes, beliefs, and actions toward the most important aspects of
our nation, from the colonial era to the present, including: freedom,
liberty, independence, revolution, patriotism, war, power, growth,
slavery, Union, dis-union, the Civil War, expansion, manifest
destiny, the West, the railroads, industry, wealth, poverty,
immigration, labor unions, women's suffrage, relations with Europe,
militarism, nuclear war, romance, sexuality, marriage, family,
children, extra-marital affairs, extent and power of government,
Prohibition, the Depression, neutrality, the World Wars, segregation,
race relations, gender preferences, nuclear proliferation, justice,
progress, crime, drugs, imprisonment, youth, age, ambition,
feminism, equality, work, employment, integration, and
The main criteria for inclusion are the power and impact the song had on a major aspect of, or issue in, American society, The song’s popularity, public awareness, notoriety, controversy, citation, and sales are more important to inclusion that its musical merits or aesthetics. My agent is currently making the rounds with the Book Proposal
The third book is 80% written and deemed by my agent, who is a veddy proper chap, too hot for him to handle. It is a non-fiction sexual memoir tiled Pussy Galore: The Helpfully Hilarious History of One Happy Horndog, and chronicles, through mostly offbeat and often off-color escapades, the sexual history of both the United States and the author for the past 70 years. I am looking for a gutsy agent for this one.
Norm: How can readers find out more about you and your book?
Albert: The easiest way to find out more about the book is to go to MY WEBSITE. The easiest way to find out about me is to type my name into a search engine and plow through the detritus of my life. I am the only Albert Podell in the nation, so all those guys – the editor, the lawyer, the ad guy, lobbyist, movie producer, theatrical producer, philanthropist, and author – are all me.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Albert: Q: What is the guiding principle of your life?
A. Seize the day, live life fully, grab all the gusto you can, never hurt others intentionally, be true to yourself but make others happy, always do the right thing and don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors