Sunday, 7 October 2007

My first book

The Buddha decided that living the life of a prince in a palace was not the way to experience the real world outside. If anything, it was a hindrance. So he gave up all the comforts of the palace, including the companionship of his wife and son, and embarked on the homeless life.

Travel, in a similar sense, gives us the opportunity to walk out of our front door and forget about the endless routines of everyday life and all of the pressures and frustrations which they bring.

We want to disappear and leave everything behind.

It took Marco Polo 17 years to make his famous journey to China. You could have breakfast in Beijing tomorrow. We can now step onto a plane and within hours be walking through the Vesuvio Gate in Pompeii, staring in wonder at the temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, Egypt, or wandering among the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siamreap, Cambodia.

This freedom to travel is something many of us now take for granted, but the mental snapshots we bring back from every journey often have a profound influence. The cool simplicity of the white-washed village of Oia on the shores of Santorini island, crisp in the sunshine. The sight of an old Indian man on the back of a camel snaking through a vast desert dotted with Pyramids. Or the grey stone head of a broken statue, ancient and worn, covered in creepers and stumbled upon among the ruined palace on top of Sigiriya Lion Rock in Sri Lanka.

These are snapshots in time. Images that take you back instantly to another part of the world, triggering an intoxicating sense of discovery. And just as we bring back memories and photographs, so we also bring back influences and ideas, inspirations and enlightenment.

A mere photo journal was what I least wanted my book to become, any more than I wished the intervening years to have passed by. Some things or sceneries featured here have either disappeared or are no longer immediately recognizable. Landscapes have been transformed, as have towns and their architecture; tastes and ways of life have changed. But this book should not be read as a melancholy journey into the past. Instead the reader should bear in mind the principle which guided the traveller at every step and on every page: a pursuit of life’s wisdom through travelling.

Guided by this, there’ll be no chance of losing your way.

A recollection of my travelling years spanning from east to west.

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