‘The further I venture abroad, the deeper I travel within.’
Across the years with Ink Pantry Publishing I’ve been fortunate to read and review a wide variety of literary genres. Yet, to my knowledge, I’ve never reviewed a book that focuses upon travel writing. Thankfully, any sense of cautious trepidation at confronting this unknown genre has been somewhat lessened by the knowledge that the author is one I am familiar with, and whose words have genuinely touched my mind and heart in the past.
The book begins with a poem and a foreword, both of which immediately whet my appetite for what lies ahead, for Mr Forester is a writer who seeks not only to educate the mind, but also to touch the heart. His foreword immediately nails a variety of exploratory colours to his mast.
‘Here are four voyages, ventures undertaken simultaneously into the soul and into the outer world, undertaken over a period of fourteen years:
A confrontation with the devastation of the Amazon rainforest and the unceasing exploitation of its resources and people.
An encounter with the power of forgiveness in South Africa, fifteen years after the ending of apartheid.
A pilgrimage of self-exploration and enlightenment to Nepal and the Himalayas.
A learning and teaching tour of the Philippines, evaluating the impact of rapid economic modernisation.’
Thus begins a series of four, lengthy journeys across the world, with the author as our trusty guide. Within each journey, Michael transports us into the heart of each community, allowing the reader sincere samplings of worlds far beyond our daily comprehension. From each country, we are dropped into rich cultures of society; although ‘rich’, in terms of financial security, is often far from the reality of what we are exposed to. What makes this a truly enlightening experience is that Michael Forester isn’t just taking the reader on a physical journey, he is seeking to find the true soul of each location he visits.
‘Yet, as I look up at an electronic advertising hoarding, I see a young Nepali couple beam down indulgently on their two-year-old son in his ‘I -❤-Nepal’ t-shirt. The same dreams of love and happiness have brought this couple together as are dreamed by young lovers throughout the world, as were dreamed by my generation and throughout all of history. And now, these stereotypical parents dream their dreams for their son, who, when the time comes, will dream of happiness and love, from which will come another generation to be beamed down upon, indulgently.’
This doesn’t mean that physical descriptions within the book aren’t abundant, for within each village, town, city and country, we are served sumptuous portions of descriptive text, along with a variety of Michael’s personal photographs; more than enough to feel us mentally walking alongside the author as he seeks to unravel the inner truths of each place. Most importantly, Michael gives detailed insights into the people he encounters, from shopkeepers who chase the author through several streets in order to sell him their wares, to enlightened Buddhist monks feeding pigeons in a town square.
‘Lost in thought, I take the departure gate to the car park. On the ride back into the city, my driver asks where I am from in the UK, for he has spent three years in Hastings, learning business studies. I do not ask why, after such training, he is driving a taxi. He and I both know his time is yet to come.’
Michael’s writing style throughout the book portrays both his depth as a formidable writer and also as a caring, spiritual human being. His words drip with honesty and curiosity, as we are taken to the Rain Forests of South America, then onward to South Africa, Nepal, Thailand and The Philippines. Within each place, we are treated to the highs and lows of the location, with a special emphasis on the native people; how they think, how they act and how they dream. The themes of spirituality and global conservation are common within the book and Michael addresses these issues truthfully, leaving the reader to make up their own minds on the matters addressed. At no point does the reader feel pressured into adopting the author’s personal stance on anything we observe. We are merely there as witnesses and Michael’s words makes us feel like we are his friends. Along with each part of every journey, we are treated to Michael’s changing perceptions on the world around him, such as a piece of self-internalisation when wondering whether to buy a stone pendant.
‘The questions I habitually ask myself are ‘Why do I want this? Will it enhance or retard my journey?’ The inner answer is surprising. I want it because the energy around me is changing, and yes, this stone is indeed on my route map. I buy. I have long been aware that my journey is taking me in directions I could never imagined. But change brings the opportunity for newness and growth. I am open to change. I am open to growth. I am open to the journey’s moving into new territory.’
I’ve glanced at several travel books in the past, usually the kind of fare one finds within hotel rooms, or laid neatly upon coffee tables in self-catering cottages. In truth, I’ve never felt the urge to pick one up and read it from cover to cover. However, One Journey is a definite exception and, like Michael’s previous books which I have had the pleasure to read, it is likely one that a reader will return to many times after it is complete.
A stunning book and very much recommended.