BOOK REVIEW: The Adventurer’s Handbook

The Adventurer’s Handbook is entertainingly subtitled, “From surviving an anaconda attack to finding your way out of the desert,” which carries the implication that it’s another one of those worst-case survival manuals that reminds you to clench your butt cheeks when you dive off a cliff so water doesn’t rush into your nether regions and burst your colon.

Instead, this book (which is apparently in development to become a road-trip-style comedy movie out in 2012, starring Jason Segel and Jonah Hill) is a densely-packed exploration of exploration itself — it careens from stories of famous expeditions, to what you might need to do to survive frostbite in Antarctica to trivia-style tidbits on trips to Everest, K2, and Tonga.  It mentions most of the famous expeditions that we can at least mentally place as having heard of–Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (first ascent of Everest!), Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki (raft trip across the Pacific ocean!), and Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated South Polar expedition (most of them froze!)– as well as a lot of less well-known but no less ambitious explorers and their ultimate fates).

I really like the idea of viewing our long-term travels as expeditions, whether we’re seeking something specific or not (the magnetic Pole? Santiago de Compostela? inner peace?), and this book offers an excitingly well-researched view on expeditionary life.  Exploring implies goal-oriented travel, and as vagabonders, we’re big fans of going somewhere for a reason, whether it’s to take great pictures or create a social network that spans the globe.  This book is a truly excellent tome, chockers with tales to interest all adventurous travel types, as well as helpful tips for surviving in the desert, not stabbing your campmates with an ice axe, and which animals you might bring on your trip are the best to eat.

The best thing about The Adventurer’s Handbook is that at no point does it treat the possibility of your mounting a grand scale exploration as silly — it really does offer useful information for pulling a team together, getting funding, packing lists for various locations, and so on.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to look at my vagabonding as a fairly minor activity — sure, I travel, but not with elephants or anything.  This book allows you to dream big, and even if you don’t use it to mount your own expedition, you’ll enjoy the dreams.

The only downside to this book, I found, is that the information is so densely packed, it can’t be read all in one go.  You need a bit of time to digest all the helpful hints before you start to learn about the guys who froze to death.  Overall, though, it’s an enchanting read, and a welcome new way to look at travel: from the perspective of adventure and the opportunity to explore.

Posted by | Comments Off on BOOK REVIEW: The Adventurer’s Handbook  | February 8, 2011
Category: Adventure Travel, Lifestyle Design, Travel Writing

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