Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook.
Wendy Simmons won’t stop traveling until she visits every country in the world! Despite her hatred for packing, she’s managed to explore more than eighty-seven countries so far—including territories and colonies—and chronicles her adventures on her blog, wendysimmons.com.
Her first book, “My Holiday in North Korea; The Funniest Worst Place on Earth” was published May 3, 2016 by RosettaBooks. Her writing has also been published in Travel & Leisure, Huffington Post, travelandleisure.com, PopSugar, OnMogul, MSN,Yahoo, and other outlets.
In 2001, she founded Vendeloo Inc., a boutique-size New Orleans-based management, marketing, and communications consultancy focused on identifying and solving strategic business challenges for emerging and well-established companies.
An award-winning photographer, Wendy’s work has been the subject of solo and group shows in the U.S. and abroad, and has been featured in media outlets worldwide. She has also owned a bar in Manhattan, worked for a lobbying firm on Capitol Hill, written a Japanese-language phrase book, and taught reading and math to the “smart kids” at a private school.
She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science and focus on Asian Studies and Japanese. Though her Japanese is now terrible, her Pig Latin is flourishing.
Wendy practices Muay Thai, relishes all adventures, and is addicted to renovating. After 25 years in New York City, she now calls New Orleans’ Garden District home. She is currently renovating.Read More
Praise & Reviews
Spud Hilton, Travel Editor, San Francisco Chronicle
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest / Worst Place on Earth” by Wendy E. Simmons: You remember “Eat, Love, Pray” and “Under the Tuscan Sun”? Yeah, this really isn’t like those. It’s better.
Books, The Universe and Everything
This is a quick read, and Wendy’s writing makes it more enjoyable than an account of visiting North Korea has any right to be. But it’s horrifying too. A strange cocktail, but it works. If you want a peek behind the strange curtain of North Korea, this is an enlightening introduction.
Daniel Goldin, Boswell and Books
I read this book in one sitting and have seldom laughed so hard.
Between the Stacks, Susan McSwain, Moultrie News
What could be funny about North Korea, and who would want to vacation there? Wendy E. Simmons is able to find humor in her strange and hilarious journey to this isolated country in her book My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth.
Simmons does an amazing job of conveying how quickly your sense of reality is destabilized in North Korea.
Newbery and Beyond
...hilarious, depressing, and all around fascinating.... Wendy does a great job of cataloging her mixed feelings about the country.... her photos are what really drew me in.... They are absolutely fascinating. The glimpses they provide into this extremely closed-off country are eye-opening.... If you want to get your travel fix without having to actually travel to North Korea, My Holiday in North Korea is probably your best bet.
San Francisco Book Review
...funny, witty, and fascinating.... Did I expect NoKo officials trying to pitch what a great and amazing country that they live in? Of course, but the beauty of this book is that with Wendy’s brilliant sense of humor and sarcasm, we know it’s all lies and a facade.... if you have a weird fascination of North Korea and need a little laughter and raw utter truth as to what it is like vacationing there then I urge you to go read this book.
How could you not be curious about a country as mysterious as North Korea? In this audiobook, read humorously by Jeena Yi, listeners will hear the most hilarious, strange, cringe-worthy, vacation stories ever, while absorbing the culture of North Korea.
…an irresistible read…. Simmons presents a rare and fascinating look at the tourist's North Korea in a work that is humorous, appalling, and very sad. A highly recommended and revealing glimpse into a secretive land.
"My Holiday in North Korea takes a humorous and insightful look into life in North Korea. Simmons is a world-traveling photographer and spunky go-getter, who shows a North Korea that is chilling, unusual, and emotionally vulnerable, giving the reader a full tour of a forbidden land."
Robert Johnston, Vine Customer Review, Amazon – 5 Stars
Best book of the year…. It reads in a immensely entertaining single sitting
Mary Lins, Top 500 Reviewer, Vine Voice, Amazon – 5 Stars
…utterly engaging and fascinating travel memoir… I haven't had this much FUN reading a book in a long time…. Simmons is hilariously funny, to be sure. And NoKo is clearly an amusingly paradoxical place. But Simmons' observations are also quite insightful. Her style is wonderfully earthy, and the reader is cast as a friend to whom she is recounting this amazing and almost unbelievable adventure…. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Kelsey Meyers, Goodreads member review, 5 stars and Old Firehouse Books
Just like the country itself, as the title implies, this book perfectly captures that paradoxical nature that is North Korea. In one page it's both depressing and inspiring, heartbreaking and hilarious. Wendy Simmons herself is the perfect narrator as she is equal parts cheeky smart-ass and astute observer.
Beth Price, Goodreads member review, 5 stars
A hilarious and entertaining book about a vacation in North Korea sounds as likely as chuckles after a cancer diagnosis. But when visited by Wendy E. Simmons, a master traveler and storyteller eager to see the entire world, who finds wonder and fun in the most unlikely places and isn’t (usually) afraid to call “bullshit” when she sees it, even the most dangerous country in the world reveals moments of wacky charm beneath its bluster and menace…. a fantastical account that’s as much a psychological adventure as it is a tour of a terrible and terribly fascinating place.
Nuk, Top 500 Reviewer, Vine Voice, Amazon – 4 Stars
Beside one of the most reclusive countries in the world, North Korea is always in the news. This book provides more than a glimpse of what is the reality.
N.B. Kennedy, Top 500 Reviewer, Vine Voice, Amazon – 4 Stars
The book is beautifully made and expensively printed on glossy paper and replete with the author's photos. It's a very visual presentation…. Ms. Simmons is an experienced traveler, and because of her openness to new cultures and experiences, is able to parse the country in ways that are fresh and insightful.
Nancy, Goodreads member review, 4 stars
This is a captivating book. I was totally engrossed by Wendy Simmons's journey…. I polished it off in no time, unable to put it down.
Buzzfeed’s Gabriel Sanchez
Writer and photographer Wendy Simmons shares a personal account of her vacation to one of the most reclusive nations on the planet, North Korea. During her journey she finds herself caught between an international crisis sparked by the release of the Sony Pictures film The Interview and accidentally crashing the ‘wedding’ of a North Korean bride to be.
Maria T. Lemmon, Novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, and Making It Up as I go Along
My Holiday In North Korea by the very funny Wendy Simmons is a must-read for anyone who wants to lift the veil and spy on the real North Korea. But more than that, it is Ms. Simmons ease at being a traveler to distant and strange lands that gives this book its unusual insight into what people behind a real iron curtain think, and yes, feel.
Myles Kennedy, Singer/Songwriter Alter Bridge/Slash & The Conspirators
Wendy Simmons gives a glimpse into NoKo in this humorous and entertaining book. Through her eyes we see the sometimes absurd, yet always aching existence of a country under the thumb of oppressive rule.
James Altucher, Bestselling author, entrepreneur, podcaster
A death-defying adventure, filled with despair and tiny pieces of hope, and beautiful — I wish I was as brave as Wendy.
Jon Reiner, James Beard Award-winning author of The Man Who Couldn’t Eat
Wendy Simmons traveled to a place few of us will ever go and found herself in the ultimate Potemkin Village. Her intrepid desire to discover the reality behind the stagecraft escorts the reader through My Holiday in North Korea with words and pictures that render this mysterious country both knowable and unknowable, and always fascinating. Simmons’ insightful and funny storytelling evocatively captures the deception, corruption, humor and, ultimately, anguished humanity of a bizarre nation. It’s a wild trip.
Through Koryo, Wendy Simmons, a New Orleans-based marketing executive and writer, traveled to North Korea in 2016 and was accompanied throughout her trip, including visits to the bathroom, by guides. She returned home to write the book “My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth.”
Her journey is coloured with humour, anxiety, utter confusion and complete bewilderment, making you feel like you’re walking beside her every step of the way.
I thought that Tony Hawks was a bit crazy to hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge, but Wendy Simmons tops him in every respect with her account of her 10-day solo trip to North Korea. My Holiday in North Korea is a fascinating, and at times terrifying, view into a world that almost none of us will ever see personally.
Hilarious, weird, poignant, and to the point (if offended by expletives, this book may not be for you), Wendy Simmons’ engaging story reveals the mix of emotions an outsider feels when visiting a country that is essentially cut off from the rest of the world.
In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, author Wendy Simmons offers readers a glimpse of North Korea as it’s never been seen before. Through poignant and laugh-out-loud essays accompanied by stunning photographs, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever.
“From the streets of New York to Paris, France, the stunning pages in these books were all captured by world-class photographers. Get inspiration for your next trip or learn about places you've never even heard of by getting lost in the pages of these 19 top-rated travel photography books!” My Holiday in North Korea can be found on slide 19.
This review is so brief because words really cannot describe the incredulity I experienced while reading – simply to say that you should go read it. Read it now. Read it immediately.
Wendy discusses her trip to North Korea, and tourism to the country in the wake of the Otto Warmbier tragedy.
Travel Writer Wendy Simmons discusses her book 'My Holiday in North Korea, The Funniest / Worst Place on Earth.' Hawkeye says this may be the most fascinating interview he's ever done, it's so surreal.
Program 479: Atlas Obscura America; The Not-Quite States; North Korea Holiday. Writer, photographer, and businesswoman Wendy Simmons describes her remarkable tour of North Korea.
My Holiday in North Korea by The Saturday Reader.
The author tells of her 10-day solo visit to North Korea and how they scheduled, planned and staged her visits to show how great and advanced the country is, except that anyone can see it is not.
In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy offers readers a glimpse of North Korea as it’s never been seen before.
Author Wendy Simmons talks vacationing in the funniest/worst place on earth. (Interview begins at 13:00 mark)
by Spud Hilton
Wendy E. Simmons is a world traveler. Not a novice. Not a pushover. Her trip to North Korea challenged every bit of her perceptions of herself and other people. Captured in her recent memoir, My Holiday in North Korea, the Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy tells the strange, sad, and funny tale of her 10 days as a solo traveler there (if that’s what you call having two minders, a driver, and never being alone except in her hotel room).
Wendy discusses her book and trip to North Korea with Marybeth Conley and Alex Coleman.
Bill Handel interviews Wendy about her book and her vacation in North Korea.
Wendy visits with Paul and Elizabeth to share insights on her trip to North Korea, and how the experience impacted her.
So far, 2016 has been a superb year for travel logs, and we’ve compiled a list of six exceptionally funny ones…
Peter interviews Wendy about her book, North Korean, and the highest level North Korean defector ever.
Wendy Simmons in conversation with Donna Freydkin, discusses her book and life inside the Hermit Kingdom.
Writer and photographer Wendy Simmons shares a personal account of her vacation to one of the most reclusive nations on the planet.
Featured on Chick Lit Central Bookshelf, July 18-31, 2016, where new books and authors are given a shout-out for two weeks.
On this week’s In Bed, Susie talks to new author Wendy E. Simmons who took the trip no one else had on their bucket list – North Korea. A lifetime of globetrotting did nothing to prepare her for the "Through the Looking Glass" experience of North Korea where a hostel will remark on the sunny weather as they are standing in the rain.
S.A.N.K. 027 – Interview with Wendy Simmons, author of “My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place On Earth”
The boys pull it together long enough to read a truly interesting book, written about one woman’s solo vacation to North Korea and her humanizing yet frustrating experience with various handlers and government officials. They then (John actually) extend themselves and set up an interview with the author, Wendy Simmons. She was funny, gracious, and at all times honest in her criticism and praise for the country and people of North Korea. Listen in and hear the amazing conversation three degenerates and an author end up having.
“Paul Harris Show”
“Wendy Simmons has written one of the most remarkable books I’ve read this year… My Holiday in North Korea made me face-palm so much I had to talk with her.” Award-winning veteran broadcaster Paul Harris interviews Wendy about her trip to North Korea.
Wendy Simmons details the 10 days she spent as a tourist in North Korea in My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest Worst Place on Earth. She gives an inside look at the constant surveillance, scrutiny and anxiety she experienced during her brief and closely guarded stay. She also took dozens of photographs that provide a rare glimpse into the nation.
“I didn’t put it down, it’s a great read,” said Peter Boyles, 710 KNUS News Talk Radio Host, of MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA. Boyles interviewed Wendy Simmons for an hour on his program while she was in town on her book tour.
KGO’s top-rated radio program host Ronn Owens interviewed Wendy Simmons during her book tour stop in San Francisco. Owens chatted with Wendy about what she found while visiting the secretive country of North Korea and took calls from listeners during the live 60-minute interview.
L.A.’s most watched local AM news program featured Wendy Simmons while she was in town for her book tour. Wendy talks about oddities she encountered on her North Korea trip including how the first morning she was there, the country declared war on the U.S. over the movie, “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogan.
While on her multi-city book tour for MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA, Wendy Simmons appeared at Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL where her event was lived-streamed by the bookseller. The recorded event featuring audience Q&A and Wendy reading from her book can be viewed on their website.
“A witty read and has a lot of attitude in it!” says “Great Day St. Louis” of MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA (recommended for summer reads). In this interview, Wendy Simmons shares that she went to North Korea seeking a unique experience, and how North Korea delivered and then some.
Wendy Simmons was interviewed on St. Louis’s #1 TV morning show about her 2014 trip to North Korea and her book MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA. She shares about arriving “the day America attacked North Korea which was the first lie I was told” and other anecdotes from the trip.
“The best AM personality in St. Louis” (The Riverfront Times) McGraw Milhaven interviewed Wendy about her book MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA. During the interview McGraw remarks, “What’s fascinating about the book is not only do you have your insights put down into words, these are some of the first pictures I’ve ever seen of normal life inside North Korea.” A portion of the interview is available for listening to via link above.
In this syndicated radio interview, Wendy Simmons shares why she traveled to North Korea, how her experiences inspired her book (that she had no plans to write when she went), and how she was treated while in the country.
Wendy Simmons is no stranger to travel. With more than 85 countries under her belt, nothing should have surprised her. Yet, Simmons says North Korea took the cake by far. “Everything I was told, beginning to end, was not true,” said Simmons in this interview with WTNH-TV's Ryan Kristafer.
Book Blog Read.Write.Repeat featured and reviewed My Holiday in North Korea calling the book "unique, fascinating" and noted Wendy is “…a wonderful photographer and she captured some really gorgeous images.... They are an integral part of her story telling and they make the book unique, particularly since so few candid photographs come out of NoKo at all.”
TalkRadio 790 KABC, “McIntyre In The Morning”
Top Los Angeles radio host, Doug McIntyre, interviewed Wendy about My Holiday in North Korea and her travels in the country on his drive-time show “McIntyre In The Morning."
An interview with Wendy about writing, and what it’s like to be a writer, with a sneak peak of her forthcoming book, “My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth.”
Tales and photos from Wendy’s recent trip to Chad, and a preview of her forthcoming book, “My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth”
The avid traveler Wendy Simmons shares her thoughts on why she decided she was going to travel to world and how she set out to do so.
Simmons, who worked with one of our editors, talked to us about getting the writing bug, landing a publishing deal, and how it feels to know her debut, My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, will be in stores next year.
Professional photographer and worldwide traveler shares what’s really going on in North Korea with first-hand experiences and the truth of what she encountered.
Writer and photographer Wendy Simmons finds herself in North Korea caught between an international crisis sparked by the release of the Sony Pictures film “The Interview” and accidentally crashing a wedding.
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Chapter 2 Excerpt
If you want to push your handler’s buttons, ask about the giant elephant in the room, the Ryugyong Hotel. This towering pyramid, which defines the Pyongyang skyline, has been under construction since the 1980s and still isn’t finished. This is particularly curious because, according to your handlers, every other structure erected in North Korea, regardless of size or complexity, took no time at all to build.
D A Y O N E
Cut to: immediately upon arrival anywhere in North Korea, when Wendy was still being polite.
OLDER HANDLER: To be honest, this building is 600,000 square meters and took three weeks to build.
ME: Wow. That’s very impressive.
D A Y S I X
Cut to: immediately upon arrival anywhere in North Korea. Wendy, no longer so polite.
OLDER HANDLER: This building is 800,000 square meters and took one month to build.
ME, to myself: Huh, that seems pretty unlikely. There’s absolutely no way you were able to build this gigantic thirty-story building in only thirty days since you have no power tools or electricity or running water. On the other hand you are a country of slaves, so I guess it’s possible your Dear Great Leader could have just said, “Hey, you 300,000 normal people are going to do nothing for the next thirty days but build this building, and I don’t really care how many of you die doing it.” (He probably whispered that last bit.)
So, it’s equally likely that it’s true, or not true, which is the fundamental conundrum with everything everyone says to you in North Korea, and it will slowly make you crazy.
ME , aloud: Uh huh. That’s pretty fast.
OLDER HANDLER: Yes.
ME : So then let me ask you this…what’s the deal with that pyramid hotel? I mean it’s been under construction for what, like 30 years? Why can’t they get it done? What’s the holdup? I bet it’s still completely empty inside! Have you been inside? But you’re a guide…surely as a guide they’d want you to see inside. When will it be finished? Why wouldn’t they tell the guides? I just don’t understand. I mean if they can build an entire movie studio in a week, why can’t they get one hotel finished?
OLDER HANDLER, while making a sweeping, grandiose arm gesture: Who can know the future?
ME : Well, I thought your Dear Great dead Leader could?
Chapter 15 Excerpt
I didn’t remember selecting “Concrete Wall” from the list I’d been given when choosing activities for my customized itinerary. And a concrete wall certainly didn’t sound like something that would normally have piqued my interest (akin to choosing “watch paint dry”). But it was on our agenda for the day after the DMZ, and quite frankly it sounded better than some of the other shit I’d been dragged around to (can you say, Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum?), so it felt like a win.
For a minute it seemed like Fresh Handler was trying to talk me out of visiting the Concrete Wall—not that I was dying to visit it, or even had any idea what the Concrete Wall was, aside from the obvious.
FRESH HANDLER: You want go Concrete Wall?
ME: I don’t know. What’s the Concrete Wall?
FRESH HANDLER: It’s a concrete wall.
ME: I don’t understand. It’s just a concrete wall?
FRESH HANDLER: Yes.
ME: Why would we go look at a concrete wall?
FRESH HANDLER, giggling, shrugging shoulders while making a face that says, “You got me…I don’t know why we’d go look at a concrete wall”: You can’t see wall.
ME: What do you mean we can’t see the wall? I don’t understand. I thought you said we were going to see a concrete wall?
FRESH HANDLER: Wall is very far. You can’t see it. You look at wall through hole.
ME: What do you mean we look at wall through hole?
FRESH HANDLER, giggling, covering her mouth with her hand while looking to the sky for the right word: Ahh, wall is very far away. You look through, ahh…
FRESH HANDLER, delighted: Yes! You look through binoculars to see wall. But can’t see wall.
Okay, got it. We look through binoculars to see a concrete wall that we can’t see. I’m so happy I understand her that I momentarily forget I don’t understand her.
ME: So we’re going to look at a concrete wall that you can only see through binoculars, but you still can’t see it?
FRESH HANDLER, motioning with her hand to indicate something close to “Yes…I told you this was a stupid idea.”: Sort of.
She looked a little embarrassed.
Sensing that my current line of questioning was likely to end up with Fresh Handler in tears, I changed tack.
“Is it close to where we are now?” We were still at the DMZ.
FRESH HANDLER: Ohhh, nooo. Very far. More than one-hour drive back to Kaesong, and then one-hour drive back to wall. And road is very bumpy. Road not so good.
This was sounding fucking awesome.
“So we drive from here all the way back to Kaesong, then we drive another hour on a bad, bumpy road to a concrete wall that we can only see by looking through binoculars? But we can’t see it. So what do we see?”
FRESH HANDLER: Just wall.
I was in, and we were off.