“Travel writing as it should be.” Oliver Stone.
“Jamie Maslin is cool, and he has adventures far beyond anything Jack Kerouac could ever dream of.” Daily Kos.
“Very well done. Arouses many poignant memories.” Noam Chomsky.
On a sunny but chilly Saturday morning in October 2016 I found myself walking around the famous Salamanca market in Hobart. The market was alive with happy sounds and market stallholders spruiking their wares. I heard Jamie before I saw him. He was holding court with several interested market goers and I soon joined them. Jamie was sharing some of the trials and tribulations that he had experienced during his extraordinary journey from Hobart to London. I was transfixed and of course purchased a signed copy of his book because I wanted to find out more!
What makes this different to other travel books is twofold. First, Jamie decided to travel the vast distance from Hobart to London by hitchhiking. More on that in a minute. Secondly, this book is not a ‘boy’s own journal’ but a book that is designed to educate you, challenge you and at times to shock you. It succeeds! Jamie’s appraisal of Australia and Australian’s sets the tone and it is uncomfortable and confronting.
So why undertake the trip and why hitchhike? Jamie was living in London with his Australian girlfriend (now wife) and was not happy. “I needed to shake off the grey and get the sparkle back, to wake from my emotional slumber and live life to the fullest again; to swap monotony for rapture through action, doing, and being. I needed to get out of London; to make good my escape, and the further away the better.
And I knew of a powerful and time-tested method of escape: hitchhiking. If there is one form of travel that awakens the real me, it is setting off on an adventure by way of the stranger’s car. Hitchhiking is the travel equivalent of a jolt from a defibrillator, an in-at- the-deep-end shock to the system that within moments of climbing into a random vehicle leaves me reborn as if a different person.”
“My plan was simple, to hitchhike home from just about the furthest point it was possible to go to from England – the southernmost tip of Australia, the island of Tasmania, where my girlfriend’s family came from, where we had arranged to spend Christmas together. To make it back from Tasmania would encompass roughly 18,000 miles [almost 30,000 km] through nineteen countries: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France and finally England.” It would take me past wonders man-made and natural, through the changing of four seasons, and across huge environmental extremes of barren desert, tropical forest, towering frozen mountains, and verdant temperate pasture. I anticipated the journey taking between 3-6 months, for which I had around two thousand pounds to cover food, accommodation, visas and contingencies. It would be a tight budget and a trip like none I had completed before. I couldn’t wait to begin.”
And then Jamie invites you to join him as he begins his trip back to London. Along the way you marvel at his fearlessness and audacity. You feel uncomfortable with how he handles certain situations and you are forced to sit back and contemplate how westerners have changed the world, often not for the better.
This is a book for those of you who want to learn about the social and political contexts of the countries explored by Jamie, while being engaged and at times horrified by the astonishing people that Jamie meets during his travels. I couldn’t put the book down!
Other books by Jamie Maslin include the Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn and, the Socialist Dreams and Beauty Queens.