This ‘Small World’

5th October 1974 |

In spite of wars and tourism and pictures by satellite, the world is just the same size it ever was. It is awesome to think how much of it I will never see. It is no trick to go round the world these days; you can pay a lot of money and fly round it nonstop in less than forty eight hours, but to know it, to smell it and feel it between your toes you have to crawl. There is no other way. Not flying, not floating. You have to stay on the ground and swallow the bugs as you go. Then the world is immense. The best you can do is trace your long, infinitesimally thin line through the dust and extrapolate. I drew the longest line I possibly could, that could still be seen as following a course.

Generally the great overland journeys follow the Asian land mass east until the traveler is at last forced to take to the water at Singapore. I chose a different way because I was powerfully attracted by the challenge of Africa, and in great awe of it too. If I could conquer Africa, I thought, I would be able to face the rest of the world with confidence. . .

I was aiming at self-sufficiency because I wanted to travel the way Livingstone did, or Columbus; as though anything could happen and all of it was unknown. It was going to be the journey of a lifetime, a journey that millions dream of and never make, and I wanted to do justice to all those dreams.