Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Sense of the World: How A Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts

As best can be reconstructed, by October of 1846, when Holman stepped off the Channel packet, his travels totaled no less than a quarter of a million miles. While other contemporary, professional travelers, such as Cochrane, had racked up impressive mileages, non could even approach the achievements of the Blind Traveler. He could claim a thorough acquaintance with every inhabited continent, and direct contact with at least two hundred distinctly separate cultures. Of the handful of nations he hadn't passed through, many of them, like Japan or Vietnam, were "hermit states," where entrance was forbidden to Westerners, or at least to British nationals. Alone, sightless, with no prior command of native languages and with only a wisp of funds, he had forged a path equivalent to wandering to the moon. ~ A Sense of the World, page 320 ~

He was known simply as the Blind Traveler. A solitary, sightless adventurer, James Holman (1786-1857) fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, helped chart the Australian outback ~ and, astonishingly, circumnavigated the globe, becoming one of the greatest wonders of the world he sagaciously explored.

I'm having a hard time describing how I feel about this book. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was entertaining, educational, fascinating, engrossing, and compelling reading. It was one of those books I picked up on whim at Costco and I'm so glad I did. I'd never heard of this man before as he has all but disappeared from written history. His life and travels are so moving that we all should take the time to read his story. To think that he did what he did for all those wondrous years is mind boggling in the day and age of the 1800s. As the author states: "Ibn Battuta is deservedly remembered as history's greatest traveler prior to the age of steam. Holman's travels belong to that age but only to its infancy, when steam-powered vehicles were just emerging from novelty into practicality. He had taken steamboats into the interior of Australia, and from Carthage to Malta, but that was a minute fraction of his various routes. There is no record of his boarding any railroad, nor of him being in a place where railroad could have taken him more than a modest distance. The overwhelming preponderance of his travels were accomplished by the same means as Ibn Battuta's ~ on foot and on horseback, in whatever passed for a carriage or cart, and in vessels driven only by the wind." ~ page 319 & 320 ~ All this and the man was blind. All this in the early to mid 1800s and the man was blind.

If you enjoy a good biography disguised as a travel memoir littered with fascinating people and interesting places read A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts.

1 Comment:

Lori said...

I'm putting A Sense of the World on my wish list. Thanks for the great review!

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