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A Season in Heaven: True Tales from the Road to Kathmandu (Lonely Planet Journeys) [Paperback]

David Tomory
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct 1998 Lonely Planet Journeys
"A Season in Heaven" presents the true stories of travelers who hit the hippie trail in the late sixties. David Tomory, himself a veteran of the road to Kathmandu, interviewed a group of travelers who went looking for enlightenment and discovered a world that changed their lives.

Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications; New edition edition (Oct 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0864426291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0864426291
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,201,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real taste of a beautiful era 8 Jun 2001
By A Customer
A well written and eye-opening book which revealed how so many people embarked on the hippy trail to the east in search of spiritual freedom and expression. The book centres on the path to india, the trials and tribulations and the myriad characters encountered along the way. The book is compiled around real experiences and diary extracts which makes it even more absorbing. I found it funny, sad and spiritual and I really recommend it. After reading this, I wish I had lived during that era. A good book to go travelling with !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The hardships, the highs, the attitudes.... 26 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Although uneven, this book is nevertheless a good accounting of the great adventure of the 60s and early 70s, the trek to India. If you made this trip, as I did in 1972, it will flashback the hardships, the highs, and the attitudes. If you didn't, this book will let you taste what you missed.
Travelling through Asia and the Middle East was for the hippies what road travel was for the beatniks. And just as there is a masterpiece of that experience of the beats, Kerouac's "On The Road," there is a masterpiece of the hippie experience, Cleo Odzer's "Goa Freaks." Read Cleo's book now!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read for anyone who made the overland trail 8 May 1999
By - Published on
I made the overland trip to Kathmandu in 1974 when I was 16. This book is the closest I've ever read to explaining what was going on and some of the crazy trips we got into in India and elsewhere,getting there through Afghanistan and other wild places. Tomory writes with his usual wit and insight. This book should also appeal to the younger generation of travellers now hanging out in the sub-continent.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Travelers of light revisited 8 Nov 2006
By mitra - Published on
Sometimes I think it was all a dream - is it possible we once lived so free? I loved this book because it allowed me to relive that era, but I also found it an exercise in frustration because it could have been so much better. This book captures the history in bits and pieces, and left me longing for a more cohesive, comprehensive account. Among the interviews I found masterpieces of insight that brought me to tears, mixed in with trivial nonsequiturs.

I joined the sub-culture of travelers (as opposed to tourists) in 1969, towed along by my restless, unconventional mother. When I was fifteen we reached Istanbul and there encountered the freaks returning from India. After having a vision of myself in a white robe I stole $50 from my mother and caught a ride east in VW bus with a dead battery to Kandahar, where we left the broken-down bus with a note on the windshield gifting it to the "people of Afghanistan. (The following week we saw it as a taxi in Kabul). My mother caught up with me in Kabul and on we went eastwards to Kathmandu and India, where I broke free of family ties for good and joined an ashram. It would be seven years before I returned to my native California, shattered and disillusioned, and yet I will always hold those crazy years close to my heart.

Mr Tomory, I urge to revisit this project with a new publisher and editor. This was a unique time in history, one deserving of documentation for the benefit of future generations. Instead of just names and initials give us a better idea of who these people were, and what became of them. Please consider the possibility of a well edited, fleshed out version of this book, including photographs, although I know there aren't many from that time because it was so uncool, so not in the moment, to have a camera.

This book is recommended reading for anyone who was there or wished they had been, though I'm still waiting for THE book about the Hippie Trail.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insight into the hippy trail 9 July 2006
By Manuela Pop - Published on
"A season in Heaven" is a collection of true stories told by the hippies of the late sixties and early seventies, who embarked on the Hippy trail from Istanbul to Katmandu.

If one wants to learn how it all begun, how the hippies financed their trips, how they survive long term on the road and the things they've learnt along the way, this book explains it all.

The writing is simple and easy to follow. The approach is straightforward: David Tomory, a hippy traveler himself, combined these short interviews in order of the towns and places visited along the trail.

The hippies, as we all know, were the people who wanted everything free. They'll leave their hometown with little money in their pockets and survived years on the road. How they did it? The answer is simple: begging, dealing drugs, opening small businesses, doing small chores for other people or staying for free in ashrams or in caves with the sadhus.

"If you were really hip - it was like being the first to wear a minidress - you went to India. India was seriously fashionable." "In 1968 the Indian Prime Minister herself called the hippies "the children of India". Later she wanted to throw them out." These two quotes explain exactly how the hippies felt about India and vice versa.

They traveled with no guidebooks: "Didn't I have a guidebook? Guidebook, what effing guidebook? No, I had the best guidebook in the world, word of mouth;" and they called their journey: "A spiritual quest? For sure."

"In the early seventies, after his missionary period, Harry Deissing begun to drive `freak busses' to India. The passengers boarding his Istanbul-to-Delhi bus asked "How much?" and that was all. But in later years, he says, the question changed to "How long?"

The ride from Istanbul to India turned into a long one, full of obstacles: the bus breaking down several times, problems crossing the borders and passengers falling ill.

Once in India, the mystical and country welcomed them all and offered a home for a long while.

Being a traveler myself and having traveled to some of those places talked about in the book, makes me want to pack my bag and return there. Not only I can relate to their stories, but I also learn about the places I have missed and the stories I never heard along the way. If you are amongst the ones who never been in any of the places described in the book, I can only imagine that you would learn a great deal of the hippy trail.

I loved the book as it takes me to another world, a world free of laws and expectations, where you can just be a freak and a drop-out and that is ok with everybody else around you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sketches the Istanbul-Kathmandu route through a collection of oral histories 6 Nov 2007
By Christopher Culver - Published on
The overland trail from Istanbul to Kathmandu brought thousands of idealistic young Americans and Europeans into the Indian subcontinent between around 1965 and 1975. These travelers, who often wandered East on little to no money, sought spiritual enlightenment, a more open and understanding society, or just loads of marijuana and LSD. By the mid-1970s, however, the phenomenon was over as more and people just flew into India, and political changes made the overland route increasingly difficult. In A SEASON IN HEAVEN David Tomory, himself a veteran of the trail, has collected reminisces by 37 others who had wild times in this golden era.

These oral histories touch on many aspects of the India experience. Of course, drug use plays a major part and there's hardly a page without mention of it. But some of the stories treat more substantial themes, and show how within the same milieu people could have vastly different experiences. Take, for example, religion. Stephen Batchelor, a contemporary Buddhist and author of the provocative Buddhism without Beliefs, tells of how he was so enchanted by Eastern spirituality that he decided to stay in India and dedicate himself to constant study. Other writers, on the other hand, found the holy men that they fell in with to be outright charlatans and left India disappointed.

Since the contributors passed along the route at different times over its ten-year span, this collection helps to show how India changed under the onslaught of Western freaks, tourists, and pilgrims. In Tomory's book, Goa and Sri Lanka pass from a beach paradise with no electricity and understanding locals to impersonal thronged resorts.

Though I found Tomory's collection interesting as a frequent wanderer myself, I was unsatisfied with the editing. The focus is almost entirely on India and Nepal, with the bulk of the overland trail getting little attention (Iran almost none), and indeed some of the contributors didn't even take the trail. The sequence of the stories in one part is out of whack, with a history of adventures in Nepal coming long before the Nepal chapter. Finally, I wish the editing of these oral histories had been done to the standards of ethnological research as published by university presses.

Nonetheless, for all its faults, I would highly recommend this book to those who like to travel slowly overland, get in touch with local cultures, and maybe even find themselves.
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