Journeys to the Other Side of the World

Why David Attenborough’s stories are the best read for your summer vacation.

David Attenborough needs no introduction. His pioneering role in surveying almost every aspect of life on our planet is unwavering. And the fact that, for decades, he has been keeping the whole world keen on anthropology, nature and the wildlife is extraordinary.

I started to read his book, Journeys to the Other Side of the World, a few weeks ago and then put it aside. The moments I managed to steal from a day to read a few pages just did not seem the right setting (simply too mundane) for diving into David’s treacherous stories and adventures. Then, a little while ago, I picked it up again. The setting was different, while on a trip that had been carefully planned to include accommodations as remote as possible from touristy destinations. And when I realised that there was hardly an internet signal on the site, I embraced the experience that enabled me to enjoy David’s travel journal even more fervently. Every morning right after dawn I would wake up without an alarm clock, pick up a relaxing spot on the amenities, before anyone else was up, and have the place entirely to myself, at least one hour to read peacefully, in the midst of secular olive trees and only with the trilling of the birds in the background and the caretaker of the retreat who would wake up even earlier than myself to tend to the garden and water the lawn and the flowers.

David Attenborough writes in a way that truly has the ability to transport you, through his absorbing stories, to another place and time. It was indeed a different place and time, but this book is a vital reminder that there was not too long ago when we did not know much about our world and that we shouldn’t take the knowledge we have today too lightly and for granted. Part of that knowledge wouldn’t have been possible without David Attenborough’s extraordinary passion for going places, for the wildlife and for discovery. And the fact that the young, even in this age distorted by technology, continue to show a vivid interest in his work gives me great comfort and satisfaction.

That said, there are a few other things that David’s travel diary made me reflect upon. It has to do with slow living. With doing something for the benefit of others, too. With remaining curious and free and starting anew each day. With resisting to develop the obsession to possess things that so easily can take hold of many of us. “If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it is that the measure of a man’s riches are the fewness of his wants. I’m happy enough,” says Jack Mulholland in the book, a no-hoper whom Attenborough encountered in Borroloola, in the Northern Territory, Australia. “A no-hoper is a man who has forsworn the comforts of civilization, shunned society and gone to live in solitude,” explains the author. The term however should not be taken (nor is it David’s intention to introduce it) as disconsolately as it sounds. I think each one of us would benefit from affording ourselves to live, if only for a week of summer vacation, as a no-hoper.
Related reading: Oyibo: An African Travel Diary / Photo Diary: Torres del Paine, Chile / One Day That Summer: Rome

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