Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book: The Traveller's Daybook by Fergus Fleming

The Traveller's Daybook is a wonderfully presented, weighty collection of travel writing through the ages. There is an entry for each day of the year, each with a short background of the writer and the entry.

The beauty of this book is in the variety. You have adventurers in the Artic and Antartic risking life and limb, war correspondents, mountain climbers, musicians and poets crossing america, wives of diplomats accompanying their husbands to new lands, and discoverers of new depths of the African continent. And then the modes of travel as many as you can think of, from foot to rail to plane to air balloon. There are people who balk at the way of life in a country because they don't have ice at hand, folk who see puffins for the first time and think them to be some kind of winged rabbits, and Artic highlanders who see a boat and are convinced it is a creature of some sort. Wonderful.

A few snips of my favourite entries:

January, 1900 - Iasbelle Eberhardt. A disturbed adventurer of the Sahara.

"I sit here all by myself, looking at the grey expanse of the murmuring sea .... I am utterly alone on earth, and always will be in this Universe so full of lures and disappointments...alone, turning my back on a world of dead hopes and memories."

April, 1934 - Richard Byrd: meteorologist in Antartica
"This morning I had to admit to myself that I was lonely. Try as I may, I find I can't take loneliness casually; it is too big. But I must not dwell on it. Otherwise I am undone."

This is my favourite, evocative and hanting entry:


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