In today’s post, I will be sharing a book review of Lands Of Lost Borders: A Journey on Silk Road by guest blogger Reg Spittle from his book blog titled Reg’s Book Blog. This book is a fascinating portrayal of a young woman’s courageous desire to be a world renowned travels and covers her experiences bicycling along the Silk Road.
She climbed to a peak of academia as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and later as a scientist/graduate student at MIT. She dreamed of walking on Mars.
But for Kate Harris, work inside science laboratories could not satisfy her need to discover, so she and her best friend Mel set out to get lost in the world of exploration–for a year, bicycling the Silk Road of Marco Polo from Turkey to Tibet.
Thousands of miles, at altitudes higher than 17,000 feet, over every kind of terrain you can imagine, and through blazing heat and freezing snow. They eluded and tricked menacing military and police, adapted to cultures as different as they could be, and traversed geography as foreign to them as Mars. They found human compassion in many places, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Tibet, and Nepal as locals took them into their homes to save them from another night in their tent.
In Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, Harris eloquently and humorously weaves history, science, and compelling anecdotes from her adventure that left my jaw hanging open.
As I have learned while walking the long-distance trails of Europe, the borders of cultures, countries and languages are lost when you step outside the comforts of everyday life and push yourself to, or even beyond, your limits. On the Silk Road, Kate Harris went well beyond the limits of most humans and her book made me want to load up my backpack and leave my borders behind.
“Lands of Lost Borders carried me up into a state of openness and excitement I haven’t felt for years. It’s a modern classic.”—Pico Iyer
A brilliant, fierce writer, and winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize, makes her debut with this enthralling travelogue and memoir of her journey by bicycle along the Silk Road—an illuminating and thought-provoking fusion of The Places in Between, Lab Girl, and Wild that dares us to challenge the limits we place on ourselves and the natural world.
As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she craved—to be an explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From what she could tell of the world from small-town Ontario, the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth; there was nothing left to be discovered. Looking beyond this planet, she decided to become a scientist and go to Mars.
In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris set off by bicycle down the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel. Pedaling mile upon mile in some of the remotest places on earth, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. The farther she traveled, the closer she came to a world as wild as she felt within.
Lands of Lost Borders, winner of the 2018 Banff Adventure Travel Award and a 2018 Nautilus Award, is the chronicle of Harris’s odyssey and an exploration of the importance of breaking the boundaries we set ourselves; an examination of the stories borders tell, and the restrictions they place on nature and humanity; and a meditation on the existential need to explore—the essential longing to discover what in the universe we are doing here.
Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer, Kate Harris offers a travel account at once exuberant and reflective, wry and rapturous. Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of the self that can never fully be mapped. Weaving adventure and philosophy with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders celebrates our connection as humans to the natural world, and ultimately to each other—a belonging that transcends any fences or stories that may divide us.
ABOUT REG SPITTLE
A retired political science teacher, Reg Spittle and his wife Sue have backpacked five long-distance trails in six European countries, beginning with Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Reg wrote an adventure memoir, Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows, which Sue illustrated. They live in Ashland, Oregon, where Reg hosts a book blog (regspittle.com) and works on another book.
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