Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: Gone Riding by Dom Giles

"Knowing about something, reading about it or seeing pictures of it is not the same as witnessing it." Gone Riding by Dom Giles
Dom Giles

Twitter, and other social media, is a neat way of broadening perspective... I follow a number of overland travelers on Twitter and enjoy reading the various updates and being introduced to other travelers via 'follow' recommendations. A recent follow introduction was adventure motorcycling author Dom Giles. His newly published book "Gone Riding" was launched in the UK in November 2013 and made for the ideal Christmas holiday read. A quick visit to Amazon and a Kindle version was winging its way to my device...
Gone Riding by Dom Giles
Quoting two paragraphs from Dom's book provides a good insight into his travel style, and in turn, how this is translated into his book:
"I’d always been a little suspicious of trips that had definitive start and end points: that whole ‘Alaska to Ushuaia’ or ‘Cape to Cairo’ thing. It might look and sound neat, beautifully packaged and bookended but it seems to be focusing more on the destinations than the journey." - Highlight Loc. 403-5
"The English anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard said: “History is not a succession of events, it is the links between them,” and I think the same can be said about travelling. It shouldn’t be about where you start and where you finish as much as about what happens in between." - Highlight Loc. 405-7


One of the interesting 'in between' moments of his travels include a few weeks of volunteering at two different wildlife projects and a teaching project in South Africa. His style of writing engages you and I found myself included in his volunteering, especially when handling Sloths!
Sloth (photo by Dom Giles)
Overland travel blogs are important -they capture the moment in time and eventually become a historical reference. I certainly encourage all overland travelers to take time to write and share their experience especially as I attempt to keep The Africa Overland Network updated. Dom Giles sums it up perfectly:
"I usually updated my blog every week but wrote something every day or so, as it happened. I found this much more enjoyable than I thought I would, as it gave me the discipline of thinking through what I’d seen and done and how I was feeling. I didn’t put everything on the blog but it certainly helped me rationalise my thoughts and process the data." - Highlight Loc. 2661-63
A credit to Dom is that the book is not a regurgitate of his blog, rather a collection of chapters highlighting his thoughts, experiences and encounters (bears and people!).
One of the aspects of the book that I enjoyed reading about was the contrast between individual travel and joining a group of overlanders who happen to be heading in your direction. A convoy of overlanders certainly bring a sense of security but also restrict an individual to the group and Dom writes about the conflict he was experiencing that many overlanders think and ponder on but don't express whilst traveling.
"In return for the comfort and security of travelling with others I felt I was losing some of the spontaneity of adventure motorcycle travel." - Highlight Loc. 5660-61

Whilst traveling in Southern Africa, Dom started encountering 4x4s in various campgrounds... he expressed his thoughts as follows:
"All the 4x4s in the campground stayed in their own area and didn’t talk to one another. It struck me that adventure motorcyclists seem to belong to a huge worldwide family. Many bikers use or at least know of the Horizons Unlimited website and it wasn’t unusual to meet another biker and then realise that you’d been reading something they’d posted just a few days previously. Being exposed to the elements, vulnerable and with limited space for luggage, I guess bikers are more willing to share and help one another. There seems to be a camaraderie which I don’t think exists among other overlanders. People in their 4x4s would almost seem to be in competition as to who had the biggest truck, or best tow rope but bikers seemed friendlier." - Highlight Loc. 5671-76
This paragraph certainly got me thinking - I am an advocate of independent 4x4 overland travel and often see a dusty motorcycle rider and his stead in a campground and often wonder who the person is and where they are traveling to - yet never ask. And when I do, I always get an interesting answer but its always preceded by "Are you a biker?". Inspired by Dom, I will have to make a greater effort next time to introduce myself and meet new adventure motorcyclists!
"Travelling has a habit of making a population of seven billion seem like village neighbours and you can while away many an evening playing ‘six degrees of separation’ with new acquaintances." - Highlight Loc. 1248-49
I recommend reading this book as it gives a wonderful insight into overland motorcycle travel without the need to pursuit endless amounts of 'Dakar' style adventure. Dom's English humour echos through the paragraphs leaving one feeling 'in the moment' with him. His emphasis is on travel and his BMW GS is simply the motorcycle he chose to use to accomplish his dreams. Don't expect endless commentary on the mechanics and benefits of a BMW motorcycle - you can get that info from other books. Simply sit back in a comfy sofa, with a English cup of tea and enjoy the ramblings of Dom, the overlander:
"One of the many joys of motorcycle travel is being locked inside a helmet all day. All sorts of thoughts float through my head." - Highlight Loc. 1104-5
One last thought provoking paragraph:
"Why leave everything behind to travel? Well, I now know the answer and I hope that after reading this book you do too. ‘Why?’ is the wrong question. We shouldn’t need a reason to explore our world. This is our planet, our life, our time. The question shouldn’t be ‘why?’; it should be ‘why not?’" - Highlight Loc. 6858-61

Postscript thoughts...

Kindle has a neat feature of being able to highlight the text and save it to a text file called "My Clippings.txt". Each highlight is marked and referenced (as above: Highlight Loc).   Dom's book featured more highlights than any other overland Kindle book I have read to date. A few additional paragraphs which I highlighted as thoughtful:

"Too often you read the books and watch the TV series and are captivated by the adventure but end up thinking, ‘There is no way a mere mortal like me could do that.’ I wondered how many people had been inspired by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s trips to follow their dream and how many had been put off. It was a bit of a double-edged sword. You buy a book about adventure motorcycle travel because you want to try it yourself. Then you read about all the wonderful, dangerous, exciting and difficult things the author does along with their mechanical skills and in some cases, support vehicles, and decide that it isn’t for you. I know I’d only been on the road for three weeks but my experience so far was that it was all fairly easy. Or at least it was as easy as you want to make it." - Highlight Loc. 1029-34

"Meeting fellow travellers and then following their blogs was one of the wonders of the new travelling age. When I first started travelling in the late 1980s we still had to queue up to collect real letters from real poste restante offices. Now I could get an instant message on a phone in my pocket. I might be travelling alone but blogs made me feel part of a travelling community." - Highlight Loc. 1408-11

"One of the universal truths about travel is that as soon as you get near to the border of any country people will start to scare you with stories of what will happen to you once you cross. They will talk of the land and peoples on the other side as if they were aliens." - Highlight Loc. 2482-84

Quote References:

The above quotes from the book have been referenced using Kindle highlights.  Loc (location) is the reference pointer to the page and text.