on 15 February 2010
Moods of Future Joys: Around the World by Bike - Part 1
You don't always get what you want for Christmas, so I logged on to Amazon with the intention of buying Mark Beaumont's "The Man Who Cycled the World." With the book finally at my fingertip I was steered to the work of Alastair Humphreys by a fellow reviewer and bought this book instead. Do I regret this decision? I will not know until I catch up with Mark. Did I enjoy Moods of Future Joys? Yes. Humphrey's descriptions of the lands he passes through and the people he meets are what this book is all about and the book is entertaining and informative, but never boring (unlike parts of his journey). Towards the end of the book his sense of humour is more apparent as he becomes comfortable with his writing talent. I hope this is continued from the start of his second book "Sunshine and Thunder." As a cyclist I would have liked a bit more information about the actual cycling. How did he obtain Sponsorship from Specialized? What bike did he choose and why? How do tyres cope with thorny bushland? How did his bottom cope without padded shorts? Cyclists like to know these things. Like a bike ride, this book took me on a route I hadn't set out to follow, but just like a bike ride I am better for it.
on 16 January 2008
Alastair Humphreys spends four years cycling around the world... not just around, but London to South Africa via the middle east, the bottom tip of South America to Alaska, then, Russia, Japan, and through Central Asia and Europe before returning home.
The only detail missing in this book is "Why?" Although, I'm not sure even Alastair knows! The first book details the London to South Africa leg, with a large portion dedicated to various African nations. Alastair's writing, slightly patchy in early chapters, finds a rhythm by the second half of the book. There is plenty of detail on his see-sawing emotions, daily routines, strict budgeting, encounters with the locals and many humorous anecdotes. Alastair kept a diary throughout his journey and the level of detail is wonderful as a result.
The question of African poverty becomes more confusing as Alastair travels through Ethiopia and sees some of the negative aspects of aid and charity.
He saved 7000 pounds to undertake this journey and lived extremely cheaply. It is inspiring stuff.
on 28 December 2006
I bought this book after hearing Alastair Humphreys give a talk on his adventures, when I was awestruck by his courage, fortitude and zest for life. The book gives a real insight into what ordinary people he met on his journey were like. We all have images of war torn nations and terrorism thrown at us on a daily basis - but this book serves to remind that there are a great many more kind and hospitable people in the world. I can only imagine what reception an unwashed youth on a bike might get if he knocked on the average door in the UK seeking food and shelter - but he found many people happy to welcome him, which I found inspiring. I am going to share this book with all my nephews and nieces - in the hope they they will realise that there are adventures to be had, if you're willing to get off the couch and seize the moment. Well written, and enthusiastically read. I hope he's busy writing the next instalment, because I'm eager to read it.
on 12 December 2006
Alastair was on the road for over 4 years on less than 4 quid a day. Just those facts are amazing enough but I find the whole story quite incredible and in this book he tells you how he did it - meaning how he coped with it mentally and grew from the experience. That's far more important knowledge than the nuts and bolts of travel in my opinion, and he has a rare honesty and the smarts to figure out how he could make it to the end, and the ability to write it down for our benefit afterwards.
This is gritty travel, not as tourism, but to gain insights into the world, into himself, into life itself. It's powerful stuff and I can't wait for the next part of the story to be published.
on 24 October 2006
A mix of humour, sharp observation, philosophy and very English self deprecation. Humphreys' style is original, pithy and informative. I look forward to hearing much more from this unique voice.
on 4 December 2009
I chose this book as a holiday companion and found it both enjoyable and addictive.
Although I do have an interest in cycling, I picked this up as a travel book. I read discovery road a few years ago and was interested to see another viewpoint (and route) of travels around the planet.
Alistair Humphries certainly provides both. His views on the world and its many inhabitants are enlightening, he is both objective and respectful trying hard to keep an open mind and accept others as he finds them and not as he has been told to find them.
I loved the read, loved the journey and enjoyed all of the lessons that the book teaches (intentionally or otherwise).
If I had a criticism, it would be that, like the journey itself, this book represents a huge challenge. Trying to document an entire navigation of our planet in one (or two) books is near on impossible and at some stages (towards the end of the first book) it inevitably feels a little rushed in it's attempt to "wind up"
Perhaps Humphries has a career in publishing extended versions for all those who want to see more "detail" however hum-drum.
In summary, a good choice for those interested in our world, socio-economics, global politics, travel, religion, conflict, geography, sailing or.......bikes
on 20 December 2006
I have only rated 5 stars because 10 stars is not an option. The indelible impression left after reading Alastair's amazing adventure predominantly across Africa is that it wasn't about the bike (Lance Armstrong) - although more than one Rita does evidence itself! This is raw adventure straight out of Indiana Jones and the escapades through Africa had me on the edge of my seat. No stranger to long distance bike rides myself, (cycling across Canada, Scandinavia and around New Zealand), the sheer audacity and tenacity in keeping going is breath taking. Lugging in excess of 100 pounds of bike and baggage across mountains in itself is bloody hard work, but factor in the heat and sand of the desert, the irregularity and unpredictability of food supplies and water and this is one heck of a feet. There are instances of very real and present danger that most people would buckle under and quit - not Alastair. The writing style is completely non-pretentious, easily accessible and engaging - Alastair comes across as one of the most authentic people I have read about. The complexity of the dynamics of the whole African situation in terms of poverty and the benefits of foreign aid is graphically illustrated and really got me thinking. This book ought to be standard text in the National Curriculum as a beacon of good character, great conduct and outstanding personal achievement.
on 29 November 2011
There are a lot of adventure books out there. More being published every year. Even the relatively niche area of long-distance cycling seems to have more books than you would necessarily be interested in reading.
Al's two books about leaving university, rejecting boring graduate job offers, and cycling around the world on his hoarded student loans are about so much more than a bicycle ride. The story is really about living adventurously (generally), being brave, and leading a life on your own terms.
I have now cycled around Normandy in northern France and from Bilbao to Porto purely as a result of being inspired by these books. I would recommend that anyone with even an inkling of 'surely there's more to life than this?' reads this book and then gets on their bike.
Full review from back when I first read the book is here:
on 25 July 2012
This is a genuinely astonishing and engrossing book. Humphreys undertook a staggering journey in his mid-twenties. The original plan was daunting enough - to cycle through Europe, Asia, down through Malaysia and Indonesia into Australia, then tackle the length of the Americas - but 9/11 scuppered his chances of making it through Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so he decided to take a right turn down the length of Africa before working up through the rest of the trip. He did this on money saved from his student loans, look four years and spent about a fiver a day.
That's right - he spent £7,000 in four years. He cycled alone, with four small bags packed with a few basic essentials. It is such an ambitious quest that it borders on lunacy. And he did it.
This book covers just the first part of the journey, through Europe, the Middle East, and down Eastern Africa to the Cape.
To illustrate his reasons for undertaking this journey, he gives a quotation: "The days were not full enough, and the nights were not full enough, and life slipped by like a field mouse not shaking the grass". You an guess from the book the pleasures he took from this lonely, dusty cycle through countless foreign, dangerous, poor, uncomfortable countries. He clearly likes to have time to think and to plan, likes to take calculated risks; he likes his own company, and enjoys the variety of people he bumps into. It's an honest and frank book, written with style and without self-indulgence. He seems such a modest, likeable person that I almost lost sight of how extraordinary his journey was.
This is a very easy read, in the best possible sense - I flew through it. I am sorry to have missed the chance of seeing him speak when he came to Bristol recently, and will definitely read the other books in this series. The most inspiring thing for me about this book is his love of the human race, and of the fact that while preconceptions about countries might generally be true, you really can't jump to conclusions about the people who live in them.
on 24 November 2011
I really love how this story almost takes you back in time on a journey with Alastair, his simple lust for life and lack of safety factor adds the risk and excitement, leading to a raw tale of adventure that is rare to find in the 21st century.
He writes excellent summaries of each country he travels through, particularly in Africa. I read this book in a few days and will read part 2 in a similarly short period of time.
On a final note, this journey portrays the view that adventure is out there, and accessible to anyone who chases it. Alastair did this on a tiny budget; "I was annoyed at being charged £20 for a new tyre as that is a months budget".
For any young adventurer this is a must have book!