Alan's Blog




A Good Book – or an Excuse?

One of the most enjoyable experiences in life is to be found in reading a good book.

Of course, what is a good book to some may not be to others, no matter how well written it might be. However, with the vast range of books available in our world we can all find something enjoyable with which to enjoy a few moments in a different world.

A good read can fill one's imagination and transport you to another world away from the pressures and stresses of modern life. It can also be a learning experience and so open our minds to new experiences, thoughts and knowledge that we would otherwise have missed.

Being a born gypsy at heart, if not in reality (unfortunately), I can find myself trekking across the Gobi Desert with Mildred Cable and Francesca French or riding a bicycle around the world with Anne Mustoe* whilst still sitting in my comfortable armchair instead of being bounced around on a bicycle saddle. Of course, there are many times I'd rather be on that bicycle saddle instead of in my armchair, but it does help me in my state of permanent boredom of not doing what I'd much rather be doing with my life; that is, travelling.

Books are often the source of inspiration. For me, stories of exploration and travel have always been a source of both wonder and inspiration. As a young man I well remember reading the exciting words of Thor Heyerdahl of Kon Tiki fame and of the mountaineering adventures of Edmund Hilary, Chris Bonnington and other famous climbers. In more modern times, the travel tales of Eric Newby and the bicycle riding adventures of Josie Dew have always been great 'reads' of inspiration.

Apart f rom these travellers' tales, my greatest inspiration comes from my library of hundreds of guide books that cover all the parts of the globe where I'm sufficiently interested to travel to – if I ever have sufficient time and money to do so. And, thereby lies the biggest problem for most of us; time and money – and the lack of each.

Having neither the time nor money (or both!) to travel as extensively as I would like, a good book at least helps me pretend I'm with the author riding his or her bicycle through the Hindu Kush or wherever. Reading a good travel book is the easy option as you don't have to make any effort to go to your exotic destination or make the commitment to make that journey happen – and it's that commitment that is the main reason why people don't do what they say they want to do in their life – and not just when it comes to travelling but in other aspects of life too – such as the obvious example of getting married.

As I've said before, many times, the hardest part of any journey is committing one's self to getting out of the armchair and onto that bicycle saddle, metaphorically, if not literally. It's when the reading (or talking) stops and the action starts.

*  Anne Mustoe didn't start cycling until the age of 54 when she resigned from her job as a head teacher to ride a recently acquired bicycle around the world. She continued her cycling adventures using the same bicycle until she was taken ill and died at the age of 76 in hospital in Aleppo, Syria, in 2009 whilst on another of her cycling adventures.

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