When most people consider taking a gap year to travel chances are South East Asia or South America will be high up on their bucket list. For others perhaps a European road trip might spring to mind. However, how many young adults would consider hitch-hiking the Silk Road with less than £750 in their pocket?
Enter a very young, very adventurous Levison Wood.
Long before he decided to walk the Nile, scale the Himalayas or traverse through the Americas, Levison Wood took off to follow in the footsteps of one of his heroes, Arthur Connolly.
Why Did Levison Wood Take on the Old Silk Road?
Arthur Connolly was a British intelligence officer working for the British East India Company during the early 1800s who for many years was sent on reconnaissance missions across much of Central Asia. On one particular trip, Connolly ‘set off on an overland trip from England to India, to see if it was possible to travel along the Silk Road in the age of the Empire’. Afterward, he was inspired to write about his trip, establishing himself as both a traveller and a writer. It was this writing that later inspired the young Levison Wood to travel through a similar path, along the old Silk Road, on his way to India.
“The Great Game…told stories of bold young Englishmen sneaking over high mountain passes to defend the Empire, with India as its centrepiece, against brutish Russian marauders.” (Page 8)
At aged 22, Levison Wood, setting off with his friend Jon and his copy of War and Peace, agreed to head towards Eastern Europe, then into Russia before traipsing across the Black Sea, into Afghanistan and Pakistan before finally hitting India to explore Amritsar, Dharamsala, and Mumbai before relaxing on a beach in Goa.
Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road is so much more than just a story of two men wandering in the footsteps of some explorer from the 1800s. It’s an account of how some people are not influenced by the thoughts of others less open to exploring perhaps more dangerous routes. I mean, let’s be realistic, there are not many people currently out there that would traverse Afghanistan just for the fun of it for fear of something horrendous happening to them. In reality, however, there are probably many parts of the country that are worthwhile visiting. Other countries in recent years have also become more popular with Georgia, for example, seeing an influx in tourism after the end of the Russo-Georgian war and its fallout.
Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road is not just a simple account of his expedition through harsh terrains and unsafe countries. Within the pages of this book, Levison Wood has taken the time to revisit the friendships made, the generosity of those that he met along the way and the life-changing events that took place. When people travel it is often these events that are so easily forgotten. We tend to focus on the countries visited, the beaches we have relaxed on and the monuments we have seen. Our memories tend to fade more quickly when it comes to the people we have met on the route and the way they may have influenced us in some way. Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading Levison Wood’s accounts of his travels so much. After all, it’s the human interaction that makes life itself so interesting.
Have you read any of Levison Wood’s travel books? Would you undertake any of his expeditions? Do you have other explorers and adventure travellers in mind that offer you inspiration for the trips you undertake?
Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road was published on November 2nd, 2017 and was shortlisted for Adventure Travel Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards.