…and now I feel completely inadequate. Being cut down to size by a true adventurer…

Book Title: Lands of Lost Borders – A Journey On The Silk Road

Author: Kate Harris

Lands of Lot Borders - Book Cover
Source: Harper Collins

Promotional Blurb: As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved – that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician – had gone extinct. From her small-town home in Ontario, it seemed as if Marco Polo, Magellan and their like had long ago mapped the whole earth. So she vowed to become a scientist and go to Mars.

Well along this path, Harris set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule. This trip was just a simulacrum of exploration, she thought, not the thing itself – a little adventure to pass the time until she could launch for outer space. But somewhere in between sneaking illegally across Tibet, studying the history of science and exploration at Oxford, and staring down a microscope for a doctorate at MIT, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks, leaving footprints on another planet: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. And where she’d felt that most intensely was on a bicycle, on a bygone trading route. So Harris quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Yule, this time determined to bike it from beginning to end.

Weaving adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of a world that, like the self and like the stars, can never be fully mapped.   Source.

My Thoughts:


That about covers it.

Pamir Plateau in Tajikistan. Source: @Cycling Silk on Facebook
Pamir Plateau in Tajikistan. Source: @CyclingSilk on Facebook

The End.

No, there is way more to this book than just WOW! I am brimming over with respect, admiration and a fair dose of astonishment. What some people set out to do AND achieve regardless of the discomfort and hardship, just beggars belief.

If you haven’t worked it out by now, this is not your ‘normal’ travel yarn. It is actually quite difficult  to pigeon hole because it is part travel story, part adventure, part navel-gazing and a whole lot of science and philosophy thrown in there as well.

“The true risks of travel are disappointment and transformation: the fear that you’ll be the same person when you go home, and the fear you won’t. Then there’s the fear, particularly on roads in India, that you won’t make it home at all.”

Harris obviously doesn’t want just a stock standard adventure, she wants to explore the World and understand what it all means. And this is what sets this book apart from your traditional travel read – the intimate insight into her own professional and personal life journey up to that point. You won’t learn how to cycle in their tracks or the mechanics of what to pack and how to plan. You will be given a good insight into what it takes to traverse great swathes of unforgiving landscape.

“Hesitation, it turns out, is the hardest frontier to cross”.

Tajikistan. Source: @Cycling Silk on Facebook
Tajikistan. Source: @CyclingSilk on Facebook

Interspersed in the story are snippets of her wrangling with what she wanted to do with her life, ultimately deciding that if she couldn’t be an astronomer on a mission to Mars, cycling a bloody long way on the Silk Road was the next best thing. I am not sure I can see the link, but you go girl!

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I was dazzled by the things she, and her sidekick Mel, achieved in a physical sense. How she/they cycled up so many mountainous mountains was simply amazing, but it was their sheer resilience that boggled me. The dirt, the heat, endless rain, snow and equally endless government bureaucracy as they rode from one country to the next, would have broken me. I am not sure I could have withstood all the ‘broken’ countries as well where corruption in rife and human rights non-existent.

“Travel is perhaps one part geography, nine parts imagination.”

Amongst all the hardship, Kate and Mel received warmth and hospitality – a hot meal and a dry bed in the most unexpected places and often when they needed it most. It certainly made a pleasant change from their usual 2-minute noodles and a soggy tent.

Traffic Jam in India. Source: @CyclingSilk on Facebook
Traffic Jam in India. Source: @CyclingSilk on Facebook

Despite all the hardship, this is not a litany of woe. They could still see the beauty of the landscape they were cycling through and, in most cases, the kindness and humanity most people possess regardless of their language or skin colour.

“…the air scrubbed clean and blue with wind, of the mountains smoothed over with snow, of a landscape indifferent to my admiration, and all the more compelling for it. More sky than earth. More wind than world”.

Harris is obviously a deep thinker with a passion for science, history, and philosophy. It seems to me that she uses travel as a backdrop to think through the theories that underpin those weighty topics. What better way to compare the practical against the esoteric than on a bicycle with a 6 400km ‘road’ stretching out in front of you?

Not a light read, but an inspirational one and definitely worth the effort. I gave it 8/10.

Kate Harris author. Photo credit: Piia Kortsalo
Kate Harris. Photo credit: Piia Kortsalo

Author bio: I’m a writer with a knack for getting lost and a grudge against borders. My essays and articles have featured in Outside, The Walrus, and The Georgia Review, among other publications. Most of my work draws in some way on the biology and geology I studied at MIT and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (thanks to the tremendous boon of the Morehead-Cain scholarship), and on the history and philosophy of science I studied at Oxford (by grace of the Rhodes scholarship). Condé Nast Traveller named me one of the “world’s most adventurous women” for my various, mostly ill-advised escapades with pals on bikes and skis in countries with names often ending in “stan.” But my main adventure these days is staying home, in an off-grid log cabin on Taku River Tlingit territory, near the BC, Yukon, and Alaska border. My first book was Lands of Lost Borders. I’m hard at work on my second. Source.

Author blog or website: http://www.kateharris.ca/

Pages:  291

Published: 2018

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available from: Book Depository for AUD$22.62

#travelreads  #longdistancecycling #travelinspo #thegreatoutdoors #armchairtravel #bookreview #thesilkroad #moderndayexplorer #epicadventure #cycletours #marcopolo #resilience #inspiration

A cat with glasses is sitting reading a book

19 thoughts on “…and now I feel completely inadequate. Being cut down to size by a true adventurer…

  1. Wow, looks. Beautiful feeling after reading this. Thanks for sharing.

    Nara x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, what those two ladies achieved was pretty inspiring!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Inadequate hardly describes it, Mel. You make me feel that some of the time, but this lady’s bio has me near to tears. If only I’d been born with half that oomph! Many thanks for a great review and if I can get my hands on it, I will. I’m used to feeling inadequate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No doubt she doesn’t write to make me feel inadequate, but some days you are cruising along thinking you are doing some pretty great things and then taken down a peg or two! And I certainly don’t intend that with my posts. Thankfully there are a million different definitions of adventure and I think I like yours the most as it often involves cake! 🙂


  3. This sounds an interesting, if exhausting read. Like Jo, I’ll see if I can find it somewhere: it’s not in our library catalogue – not a good start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I may be a bit weird (edit: a big chance I am a whole lot weird!), but I love reading these sorts of books about people who really enjoy stretching their boundaries. Thankfully my boundaries involve a whole lot more comfort!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like an interesting read. I like books like this where the author pushes the boundaries. And where they travel well out of the norm of most travellers. How they survive the challenges is astounding.

    And I love the cat! That is SOOOO me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is such a shame we have to interrupt our reading time for a little thing called work! 😉


      1. Well, that’s what retirement is for 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It looks amazing, I’m definitely going to give it a read as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it is the closest I will get to adventure for a while…


  6. Reading about people like this leaves me feeling the same way I felt when I lived in my previous house and used to go around looking at open houses: inadequate. Just like you wrote in your title. Still, I’m intrigued enough to seek it out and give it a shot. Also, thanks for teaching me a new word: simulacrum. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you. I despise those home renovation and gardening shows on TV as everything is always so perfect AND matching. Where is the personality in that? Happy reading and enjoy your new words! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! She is definitely an inspiration. I find I used to get a bit defeated when reading of other’s amazing adventures, knowing that I will never ski to the north pole with my daughters, dragging a giant sled of provisions across the frozen tundra. I absolutely love adventure, but I know my body would not be able to suffer that much. What I am thankful for now is that people who DO have that kind of body, and a mind bent to suffer, actually go out and DO those things. I’ll take care of the microadventures 🙂 Thanks for sharing this great book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you. I also don’t possess her definition of ‘fun’! 😉 We all adventure in our own way and it’s all about what makes us happy. Enjoy your day and happy reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your marvellous review has convinced me I must buy this book, so thanks to you a few coppers will be added to Ms. Harris’s royalty cheque this coming quarter. Great review and it shows you in a terrific light as someone who really loves and understands, travel. I know how you feel about the inadequacy, it happens to us all. I’m all too often in the position of saying “I coulda been a contender” when I read something that I had once thought about but didn’t do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that… ‘I coulda been a contender’…Marlon Brando??
      To me it is all about making the most of each day and stretching myself just a little more each time I set myself a challenge. I doubt that I will ever cycle the Silk Road, but we can all enjoy amazing travel experiences. Thanks for following the adventure.


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