Books: Eye on the World

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The Independent Travel
Eye on the World

by Gavin Young

(pounds 20, Viking, Penguin Books)

This glossy illustrated book is a celebration of a traveller's life. It documents Gavin Young's personal vision of the world's most exotic and dangerous places, but alongside ethnic conflicts and wars, we also meet the people he made friends with along the way.

Through political crises around the world, the author, who was war correspondent for The Observer until 1975, shares with us all the misery - as well as the unexpected joys - of people living in a state of emergency. Young's whole life seems to have been a journey, taking him from the Persian Gulf in the 1950s right through to his return to Vietnam in 1996.

From Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Central Africa, Nagaland, Kurdistan, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Cambodia and Iran (among others), the writer witnessed the world through the eyes of a journalist. Then came a decisive time in Young's life. As he says: "It was with great relief in the late 1970s that I finally plucked up enough courage to cut adrift from journalism."

Ever since that time, Young has been wandering around the world and not looking for wars. The rest of his journey has included a "cruise" on any old skiff, freighter, junk or ship he could lay his hands on, travelling between Europe and China and back again - with some pretty interesting stopovers: Jeddah, Karachi, Singapore, Manila and Hong Kong, for example, and then New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Santiago, St Helena, Dakar and, finally, Plymouth.

Even if it is a fairly self-indulgent ride through the life of the author, is the perfect book for those who, like Young, "want to see the world as an apple they want to devour".

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