SALT LAKE CITY — Tales of a Reluctant World Traveler by Randy Ross is a one man show that chronicles Ross’s experience backpacking around the world as a 40-something-year-old man on a budget traveling around the world with others who are younger and more energetic than he is. He then continued to also chronicle how this adventure led to his one man show and to his publishing a book about his experiences.
Before COVID-19, Ross would do this production as a one man show at fringe festivals, like the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, around the world, but now he has adapted it for the online world we have now found ourselves forced into. The combination of video and PowerPoint felt a little at first like a Zoom meeting, and I found myself a little tempted to multitask like I do at work, and I had to remind my mind that it is a theatrical experience, not another work meeting.
Ross has an animated voice and story-telling personality, which kept me captivated as he talked about preparing for his experience traveling around the world, though as he described his reluctance, I did wonder why in the world he went on this experience in the first place. I am jealous, because the experience sounds wonderful to me, but he sufficiently explained how much he does not enjoy the experiences of budget travel that I wondered why in the world he did the trip in the first place. His discussion of guide books made me feel like he may have not only read them, but he had also memorized them. However, he seemed to have memorized all of the negative and dangerous things, and he continually reminded the audience about all the negative things about each place he had been to in the course of his trip.
His PowerPoints had amusing pictures, with him in his various different experiences from Cambodia to Capetown, from Australia to South America. He talked about the difficulties of living out of a backpack, of flying “barely coach” and finding himself in a place that sells drinks and machine guns. I found it a little disheartening to keep hearing that every new thing that he tried was something that he would never try again. It seemed that nothing he experienced was something he enjoyed or was glad that he experienced, and as someone who has enjoyed travel and learning new things, it made me sad and wish that I could have been able to have some of these experiences instead of him.
The second half of the show covers the difficulties Ross found when trying to publish his experiences, and I found this part of the show more enjoyable, perhaps because it felt a little more relatable. While his reviews of his accommodations on the trip were absolutely hilarious, I still kept thinking, “why in the world did you go on the trip?” However, as a writer myself, I did understand the desire to tell the story, so the continual push to get published was a much more identifiable quest, and I felt more connected to Ross during this part of the production.
The camera work and the Vimeo interface all worked well, and the experience was entertaining and well worth the time invested for the experience, even though it was a bit negative and may leave a bad taste for travel in anyone’s mouth. Ross has a way with humor, can elicit laughter about the difficulties of budget travel, and will probably just make you want to save travel for when you either have more money or the ability to stomach more roughing-it accommodations when you travel.