Posted by: MummyTravels | Mar 29, 2012

The lure of the great unknown

There’s so much focus on how tricky it can be to travel with children that it’s easy to forget just how much harder a trip could be. If you had to wear a corset for example. Or if you decided to attempt the kind of voyage that’s genuinely life-threatening.

So if I start to forget that, a new collection of historic recordings by major travel writers of the 20th century is the perfect way to put it all into perspective.

The previously unreleased set of BBC broadcasts includes memories of Shackleton’s 1914-17 Antarctic expedition by Leonard Hussey, Eric Newby’s amused recollections of the farcical lack of preparation for his short walk in the Hindu Kush and Geoffrey Moorhouse’s reflections on life following his near-fatal attempt to cross the Sahara by camel.

The British Library recordings also feature Laurie Lee, Ella Maillart, Sacheverell Sitwell, Freya Stark, Wilfred Thesiger, Laurens van der Post and Jan Morris among others, whose own intrepid travels headed much further off the then beaten track than any low-cost flight with baby in tow could hope to.

So if I ever wonder why I’m sitting at an airport with a squalling child, or trying to source a travel cot at the last minute, I think pioneering explorer Freya Stark, who was the first Westerner to explore remote parts of Iran in the 30s, sums it up nicely.

‘In spite of all hardships, discomforts and sicknesses, the lure of exploration still continues to be one of the strongest lodestars of the human spirit, and will be so while there is the rim of an unknown horizon, in this world or the next.’

The Spoken Word: Travel Writers is out now, priced £16. Available from


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