Reflections on a wild life of daring travel.
Award-winning fiction writer and journalist Shacochis (The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, 2013, etc.), a contributing editor for Outside, was infected with wanderlust even as a boy growing up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. His “disease of waywardness,” his mother told him, “had the potential” to land him “in serious trouble.” As his witty, irreverent travel essays demonstrate, it was not only his love of travel, but often his complete lack of preparation that threatened to cause trouble. In the far east of Russia, for example, he armed himself with pepper spray as protection against bears. “You have pepper spray?” a Russian asked him. “What for? To make bear cry before he absolutely eat you?” On his 39th birthday, Shacochis decided it was time for his “nicotine-fouled, under-exercised” body to scale 16,943-foot Mount Ararat. In all ways, he writes, “I was either uninformed or ignorant, and considered both states to be the mother of adventure.” With no experience fishing, he gave in to his obsession with the South American dorado, his “dream fish.” In his 20s, he met a couple who had renounced “convention and orthodoxy” to invent a ruggedly adventuresome life for themselves. Despite challenges and discomfort, he learned from them “that there’s never a good reason to make your world small.” In the long title essay, the author recounts in palpable detail his travels to Nepal in 2001 with his friend, photographer Tom Laird, who first visited that country in 1972 and “fell under the spell of the mountains and the culture.” Nearly 20 years later, Laird gained permission to document life and art in Mustang, a place of “melodramatic romanticism,” shrouded in mystery. Shacochis details Nepal’s tumultuous political past, vividly renders the landscape’s “luminous presence” and “physical sacredness,” and sensitively portrays Laird’s passions.
“Sink into an otherness,” the author advises in this enlightening travel collection, for a voyage of self-discovery.