In Unforgettable journeys to take before you die veteran travel writers Steve Watkins and Claire Jones are asked to pick 30 of their favorite journeys worldwide. A tough task, no doubt, to pick the best from a stunning array of international options. What they offer is much more than the glimpse of a place as in the various ‘1,001 places’ books that have been popular recently. Each journey is described in its full flavor through both the alluring descriptions and the numerous photos.
This book filled me with a longing to go on a number of new journeys such as following the reindeer migration in Lapland, taking a trip by rail through Copper Canyon in Mexico, and traveling through Ireland on horse-drawn carriage. It also heightened my desire to go to some other spots already on my list – the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, camel riding in the dunes of Morocco, and the pilgrimage from the Pyrenees in France across Spain to Camino de Santiago.
Like any list of favorites, their list is somewhat subjective. A number of the journeys they recommend are ones I’ve already taken, and though I can see why the authors would recommend them as unique adventures, I don’t think these trips would necessarily be in my top 30 list.
The authors focus mainly on nature trips, from riding through the Okavango Delta of Botswana to Shakelton’s voyage in Antarctica. A number of the trips were focused on tracking a certain animal: polar bears in Churchill, Canada; reindeer in Sweden; mountain gorillas in Rwanda. You don’t necessarily have to have great physical prowess, though, to find this book interesting. They also list three train journeys through beautiful landscapes: The Trans-Mongolian Railway, Copper Canyon, and The Eastern and Oriental Express.
The only city highlighted was Prague, but it was also said you could see most of Prague in a weekend, although most of the other journeys are a week and up to five weeks. There was also one on tracing Gaudi’s footsteps in Spain, looking at his unique architectural style throughout Catalonia. These two were in the minority and if you’re the kind of traveler who likes museums, theater, and restaurants then this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy wide expanses with relatively few people, and you’re looking for that ultimate adventure, then this book is a great place to start.
The authors’ introduction was quite inspiring and spoke of the need to get out and see the world for yourself, not just surfing the internet and TV or reading books, but having those precious moments that we all relish while traveling. They said “…it is the journey itself, both physical and mental, with its inherent uncertainty, that is the destination.”
Unforgettable journeys to take before you die, Steve Watkins & Clare Jones, Firefly Books, 2006, $19.95
©Christina Kay Bolton