Adventures in summer reading

By Kim Mayberry-Hjertaas - On the Shelves

Summer vacation is here: time to travel and explore. This month's column focuses on three travel/adventure books, which you may or may not have heard about, all available through your local library.

Give Me the World is a travel memoir originally published in 1958. The book is interesting because it was written by a woman named Leila Hadley and it recounts her two-year world travel adventures with her six-year-old son Kippy. In 1958, a single mother and child travelling alone would have been an oddity.

Hadley was a young divorcee who was bored with her ritzy life in New York as a public relations agent and decided, on a whim, to leave it all behind to travel the world. First stop was Hong Kong, where Kippy and Leila live comfortably with a maid in a hotel, then the wicked city of Macao, where Leila ate monkey brains during a swanky dinner with dancing hostesses and rich businessmen. Side trips to other southeast Asian ports are described with vivid detail.

Bangkok was where she met a crew of four men - Yvor, Hal, Vic, and Art - all originally from the States, who had been sailing around the world for four years. Despite the crew's original hesitation to have a woman and child on the boat, Hadley manages to coax them into letting Kippy and her join them. They sail to Penang, meet the queen of the Nicabars Islands and survive squalls on their way to Ceylon. Then Kippy and Leila spend months exploring India and meet up with the crew again in Lebanon and continue on to Turkey and Greece. The bond between the crew members becomes tight and this story is just as interesting as the travel tales.

Imagine the collective eyebrows that must have been raised: to see this American woman, child in tow, sailing around with four men! Hadley had chutzpah galore. It didn't hurt that she was stunningly beautiful (you can tell by the photos that are halfway through the book). It is her gusto and personality that make the book such an interesting read - her courageousness earns her experiences most people wouldn't dream of. She writes with grace and upper-class ease and her descriptions of people and places are filtered through her personality, which must have been a force to be reckoned with.

Colin Angus is another character who inspires through tenacity and determination. He completed the first human-powered circumnavigation of the planet and his book Beyond the Horizon recounts his journey.

At a time when carbon footprints and the environmental toll of air travel are becoming growing concerns, here is an example of initiative, self-sufficiency, and daring to the extreme. The trip was 43,000 kilometres and took 720 days. Angus rowed over two oceans, trekked, cycled and skied through 17 countries on three continents. You have to admire that, even though you may have reservations about the interpersonal accounts between his various travel partners.

The trip is calculated and costly; an enterprise undertaken by a seasoned adventurer who makes his living travelling and telling the tale. Another form of chutzpah, or is it more vanity and egoism? You be the judge.

The Kindness of Strangers celebrates the best in humankind. It is a collection of tales from 26 travel writers that "explores the unexpected human connections that so often transform the experience of travel, and celebrates the gift of kindness around the world". The stories range from well-known writers like Tim Cahill, Dave Eggers, and Simon Winchester to people who have never been published before. The stories are most often short and sweet. Although they are told from various points around the world, from Europe to the Middle East to Asia, they all celebrate kindness and compassion, which the Dalai Lama says in his introduction "are among the principal values that make our lives meaningful".

The book is a collection of writing that gets to the heart of what most travellers are looking for - an unforgettable connection with the people and place they are visiting.

Safe travels to all summer readers.

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