I began to read travel literature when the peripatetic period of my late teens and twenties came to an end. Patrick Leigh Fermor, Dervla Murphy and Wilfred Thesiger offered some relief for the yearning for adventure and wild places that came when I hung up the dress-like jalabiya that had allowed me to pass discreetly through much of rural North Africa (my last significant, open-ended travel adventure), and adopted the traditional jumper of native England.
The sort of haphazard drifting that impelled me across North Africa, through much of aromatic East Asia, deep into the steamy jungles of Borneo and across a small part of the largest desert on the planet, is best bookended at either end of the grown up responsibilities of raising a child and trying to hold down a career. Or so I managed to convince myself.
Nick Hunt’s Walking the Woods and the Water offers the intimacy that comes from reading great travel journals, conveying a strong sense of personality as well as a strong sense of place. There were times when I felt Hunt had outshone Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of his own teenage trek from The Hook of Holland to Istanbul. What was so familiar from my own wandering is that intense optimism that is so essential to goad you on your journey when the discomforts or dangers occasionally feel too pronounced. If you enjoy travel literature Nick Hunt’s book is recommended. Like Patrick Leigh Fermor who inspired his adventure, Hunt is a traveller from an ancient tradition.