“The World Tour Compatibility Test” by Elizabeth Koch

Friday, December 1st, 2006

By piper

I’m thrilled to announce Memoirville’s newest feature, The World Tour Compatibility Test by Elizabeth Koch! This ten-part series is part travelogue and part convoluted love story. Read for the rich descriptions of exotic countries you’ve never seen; read for the so-familiar-it-hurts observations of imperfect people crashing in and out of love. Or stop reading and look, because this trip around the word comes complete with gritty, gorgeous, obnoxious, sometimes disgusting photos, and three bizarre videos as well.

Next week, we go to Shanghai. Below, Elizabeth welcomes you to her world:

“My boyfriend and I took a trip around the world this summer. We planned the journey two months after meeting, about the same time we moved in together. Todd and I are hyper and impulsive, which is why we get along. It’s also why we don’t. We’d both always wanted to travel abroad, having missed the boat on the post-college pack-mule thing, back when tandem-biking through Parisian vineyards and splashing around nude beaches in Spain was something people did. We’d just never met anyone funny enough to invite along. We felt very lucky to find each other so funny. But funny only gets you so far.

Todd and I run a literary humor magazine called Opium, and we decided to call the trip the Opium World Tour to legitimize an irresponsible romp across Eurasia. His friends and my family suggested we reconsider the world tour. Todd is a ray of sunshine, optimistic and leap-out-of bed happy, and I am a pinwheel of anxiety, a black cough of misery, critical and disgruntled to the extreme. We begin every meal shouting at one another over wine glasses and little bowls of olive oil.

As time inched closer to our departure date—June 11th—we began to think of the trip as a compatibility test: If our relationship survived, if we failed to kill one another during our 5-week adventure through China, Japan, Germany, France, London, and at the last minute, Sweden, then we’d move to San Francisco upon our return. If not, well, we’d have lovely stories to tell our next lovers. This was my line of thinking, anyway. I shouldn’t speak for Todd, even though I always do.

What happened, in brief, is this: We feasted on duck bills in Shanghai, bought cheap furniture in Beijing for our future home together, got drunk and wreaked havoc in a Ryokan in Kyoto, and, with two weeks left to go, broke up in front a giant pulsing light machine in the Electronic District in Tokyo. We got back together before sunrise. But this is where the worm turns, where the power rolls flip, where Todd becomes the leader and I the groveller, climbing my way through the catacombs in Paris, stumbling up and down the aisles of the Tate Modern in London, sick with panic that I’ve pushed the love of my life too far, that he will never fully forgive me.

The ending isn’t happy, but it’s not sad. It’s complicated. Realistic.”

And if you think you know what it is, you don’t. Stay tuned…

11 responses

  1. Gigi says:

    sounds fabulous! i can’t wait to read it!!

  2. Erica says:

    Wow! I am hooked! Inquiring minds want to know what happens next!
    Hurry up and dish out the next episode….. xoxo

  3. Ben Fountain says:

    Excellent food photography.

  4. Nathan Peters says:

    Rather strange, running across this. While my memory is foggy, didn\’t you do a spell at Cal sometime around 1998? Shakespeare and the smoking room at the Shattuck Hotel, if memory serves.

  5. Andra Miller says:

    I need to contact Elizabeth Koch to inquire about a speaking engagement. Can I reach her through this site? — Andra Miller

  6. David Nicastro says:


    Great article…I’m glad to see that you are having fun in China & beyond!

    Hope everyone is well with the family.

    All the best, Dave

  7. Jeff says:

    Great to hear that people have had a great time in China and still managed to stay together. So far it seems all of our tourists have managed to have fun and return home still married or as partners…

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