Travel: The Book That Inspired Me

`FULL TILT' BY DERVLA MURPHY

ON THE title-page of Full Tilt, Dervla Murphy quotes Robert Louis Stevenson: "For my part I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake."

I read this on a grey morning, wearing a grey suit, in a crowd of grey faces, commuting on the London Underground. I was not sure what it meant then as the ambit of my travels included only getting to and from work or getting away from work. But several lengths of the Central Line later, I had raced with Murphy and her bicycle, Rosinante, on a great adventure from Ireland to India and a seed of understanding had been sown.

Full Tilt is the very best kind of travel book. It is, at once, funny, ingenuous, mildly erudite and intrepid. In my case it proved to be, in addition, a hefty boot to my rear and the inspiration to spend three years riding a bicycle 24,000 miles around the world.

Murphy began her escapade during the worst European winter in living memory. She was attacked by wolves in Yugoslavia and stoned by youths crossing the Great Salt Desert in Iran. She had to repel the amorous and urgent advances of men everywhere (except Afghanistan), often occasioning the use of a .25 revolver which she kept in her saddle-bags. But to her, these hardships were, like strong seas to a sailor, minor but inevitable hindrances, which was great encouragement to me, a timid city solicitor.

What is also apparent from Full Tilt is that you do not need a wealth of knowledge and experience to embark on a journey like this. Bike-maintenance skills, fluency in languages, awareness of customs, and medical expertise are all largely superfluous if you have a flare for getting on with people. Such news provided the crucial incentive I needed to leave immediately.

Equally encouraging was the revelation that I did not need to be a finely tuned athlete. In fact, as a heavy-smoking, hard-drinking, slightly porky lawyer, I was actually extremely well suited to an epic bike ride of this kind.

I rode in a westerly direction and though I crossed Murphy's route in Pakistan, I only picked it up properly at Meshad in north-east Iran, when I emerged out of Central Asia. At this point, I had been on the road for two and a half years and I was keenly aware of the uninhibited generosity that travelling on a bike inspires in people.

Yet it was wonderful to recall some of her more bizarre encounters with the Iranians as I experienced them myself. When I passed Mount Ararat on the Turkish-Iranian border, which, as I remembered, she described as being like "a personality encountered" rather than a stunning vista, I thought of the crowded Central Line and raised a large shot of cheap whiskey to Murphy for her adventurous epic.

Abandoning my job, career, girlfriend, flat and puritanical English values was not easy, but somehow I trusted implicitly the message in the book: that human wisdom may be measured by the respect that we pay to the unattainable, the mysterious or simply the different and that to learn this you have to travel for travel's sake.Published by Flamingo

at pounds 6.99

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits