THE WORLD’S MOST TRAVELED MAN: A Twenty-three Year Odyssey in and Through Every Country on the Panet

Mike Spencer Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An amazing book for travellers. This guy has done it all, the most wild, the most extreme, the most bizarre. All done with the same backpack. One thing though, I don’t understand how he financed his travels. At times he speaks of loading his pack with stacks of cash. But he never writes about working for a few months to get the cash for the air flights. Yet he keeps returning to Canada to keep up with his family and friends. Now he did hitchhike and stay in hostels in areas most people wouldn’t go at all. Brown spent time in each of the countries he visited, getting to know the local people and customs, exploring cities and backwaters until his curiosity was sated, vagabond style; no luxury hotels or guided tours for him. He hung with witch doctors, hunted with Pygmies, sipped wine during a Taliban gunfight, inspected active volcanoes, mingled with penguins in Antarctica, been detained by the CIA in Pakistan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“For me, travel was compulsory, for intellectual reasons. ” “There are so many generous and friendly people around the world, in every country. If you are patient and friendly yourself, good karma will come to you.”

 

“When I was hitchhiking north from Baghdad during “Operation Iron Grip” of the second gulf war, the guy who picked me up was a keen fan of Saddam Hussein. When we were passing the town of Tikrit, he pulled over, saying, “Let’s have some food in the president’s hometown.” Soon we were eating chicken and rice in a big open-air restaurant with a hundred or more of Saddam’s tribesmen around me. Here I was talking English with this guy, everyone giving me the evil eye. I wondered if they’d come over and cut off my head like they did to the Japanese backpacker who tried Iraq at the same time as me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The book would have been better with more photos, like these. It’s a great read even if only to show you which countries you don’t want to explore.

LOST BARBARIAN: Travels in the New China

ALEXANDRE TRUDEAU

Trudeau started his latest travels in China in 2006 as Bejing and the nation were preparing for the Olympics. The heart of the travelogue is his meetings with individual Chinese citizens. The disabled worker, rural families, the university professor, the artist Ai Wei Wei and even his guide, all reveal realities about China and its people that westerners don’t see from a distance. “The Chinese story, especially the recent one over the last 30-40 years is perhaps the greatest success in human history, in terms of the amount of wealth created.”

“On Chinese streets, the people just want to live their lives. We put way too much emphasis on politics. We read China through its state structure.  (Most) Chinese people are radically a-political. They don’t see the Communists as anything different than all the dynasties that preceded. They are a strong authority that has absolute power over them.  The people either embrace politics and become an active player and rise through ranks or turn their backs on it. Ordinary Chinese are also going: ‘Wow look at all the things we have achieved.’ They are very proud of their success.”

If you want to learn more about China, this is your book. Though I wish he included photographs especially since he usually works in a visual media, tv and film.

BLACK BERRY, SWEET JUICE: On Being Black and White in Canada

LAWRENCE HILL

“Canadians have a favourite pastime, and they don’t even realize it. They like to ask—they absolutely love to ask—where you are from if you don’t look convincingly white. They want to know it, they need to know it, simply must have that information. They just can’t relax until they have pin-pointed, to their satisfaction, your geographic and racial coordinates. They can go almost out of their minds with curiosity, as when driven by the need for food, water, or sex, but once they’ve finally managed to find out precisely where you were born, who your parents were, and what your racial makeup is, then, man, do they feel better. They can breathe easy and get back to the business of living. ““I suppose the reason many of us mixed-race people find [This] Question offensive is not just that it makes assumptions, which are often false, about our identity, but because it attempts to hang our identity on one factor: race.”

Part memoir, part thesis and part history Black Berry is a thought provoking read. Hill struggles to understand his own personal and racial identity. Raised by human rights activist parents in a predominantly white Ontario suburb.  “Canadians are quick to point out what we are not – we are not white, and we are not black – but they don’t tell us what we are. This is the quintessential Canada: the True North, Proud and Vague.” Mixed raced people feel alienated from both races: not black enough to be black nor white enough to be white. It must be a lonely existence.

 

BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

GABRIELLE HAMILTON

Even if you are not into food and cooking, read this memoir for the writing. The prose sings it’s so fine. Hamilton writes vivid and precise descriptions of anything from a maggot-infested rat to a plate of beautiful ravioli. “You could see the herbs and the ricotta through the dough, like a woman behind a shower curtain.”  She starts with her childhood when her French mother spent her days at the stove cooking marvellous meals. “The lambs roasted so slowly and patiently that their blood dripped down into the coals with a hypnotic and rhythmic hiss, which sounded like the hot tip of a just-blown-out match dropped into a cup of water.”  After her parents divorced, when Hamilton was 11, she essentially went out into the world on her own, a precocious adolescent with a badass attitude. She began washing dishes in a hometown restaurant at 13, moved on to waitressing in Manhattan, and has worked, off and on, in professional kitchens ever since. In 1999, Hamilton has owned Prune, a 30-seat East Village bistro. The driving impulse behind her desire to open a restaurant, she explains, was to “harness a hundred pivotal experiences relating to food — including hunger and worry — and translate those experiences into actual plates of food,” to reproduce the sort of hospitality she’d experienced travelling “from Brussels to Burma.” The chapter on leaving her lesbian lover for the man who becomes her husband and fathers her children is priceless. When visiting her mother-in-law in Italy, cooking becomes the language of their communication. I only hope she continues writing.