January 01, 2006

In a height of arrogance and attempted fulfillment of self-imposed goal, I devote several of the first posts of this new year to an attempted overview of, well, the world: confirm or learn or discover the true depths of current personal ignorance -- for that is the one certainty that will arise out of this project.

For the sake of manageability, I divide countries most often by continent or shared land area, but sometimes by commonality of language, or by those anchored / dominated / strongly influenced by a strong central power, as follows:The order is that of the sun, sweeping east to west from the International Date Line. This is not a resolution, but born out of that constant wish in me to understand.

Yet there is one thing which might qualify as a resolution in me -- besides the two, that is, which continue to insist that I ought to stop believing that every day ought to have at least twice as many hours, and consequently to stop committing myself accordingly (but this is very deep in me: that to find time is to find obligations to fill it); and of course the perpetual one which demands of me that I catch up on those obligations to which I am already committed. It woke within me as a dream and a desire this past September: and now I know that as soon as I have the funds I will follow it. It is simply this: to see what I have not yet seen of the world ... and to begin by walking across a single country.

No rush. No schedule. Where local intervillage buses are available I may even decide to use them occasionally, or if villages are close enough together I might decide to walk it after all: but the intent is to talk with people and grow to know communities I never knew existed, and in the late nights I intend to write what I have seen and learned. (And thus I will need to at some point acquire a laptop as well, something that is perhaps overdue.)

I don't know when. I hoped originally to start this coming fall, but life events have delayed it until at least the following year. But then ... we shall see.

I was very inspired by your words on getting to know the world. I have had the same thoughts for some time. I walked across the Pyrenees and to the Westernmost point of continental Europe this summer (Cabo de Finisterre) following the Camino de Santiago (a medieval pilgrimage). I think walking across a nation or a few nations (in a loose sense of the word nation) is certainly the best way to get to know the world. Having done the walk, I felt, like many others who've had similar experiences, at one with nature, more certain of man's fragility in the world and of having had a really good insight into the cultures I came across - in this case French, Basque, Spanish and Galician. Since then, I have immersed myself even more in historical and travel literature and spend most of my time when not doing my political theory ma or worrying about my career, dreaming about where next to walk. May I suggest a few books to inspire you, if you're not already familiar with them? It sounds like you would enjoy them: 1) Clear Waters Rising, Nicholas Crane.- across the mountainous European continental divide from Cabo de Finisterre to Istanbul 2) Through Lands of the Bible, HV Morton (a really excellent travel writer from 1920s - 1960s, now often out of print sadly)(all over the Middle East). 3) Selected writings, Jan Morris. 4) A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermour. 5)Danziger's Travels, Nick Danziger.

I think it could be worthwhile following the route from the Rift Valley in Africa and up into the Middle East and then Europe, following an old 'civilization' route. I wonder if this has ever been pursued?

Thanks again for your inspiring words.
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