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“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” — Edward P. Morgan

“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” — James Bryce

Seeing lions in Africa might have been the very first thing I put on my bucket list, thanks to reading Osa Johnson's lion watching stories. And in 2007, I crossed it off what over the years grew to hundreds of things I wanted to do. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Seeing lions in Africa might have been the very first thing I put on my bucket list, thanks to reading Osa Johnson’s lion watching stories. And in 2007, I crossed it off what over the years grew to hundreds of things I wanted to do. — Photo by Pat Bean

The First 10 Books That Popped Into My Head

I’m always coming across best book lists. While they often have many of the same books on them, they also can differ tremendously depending on the genre of the list or the compilers.

Gypsy Lee was my version of Charles Kuralt's "On the Road" RV, which now sits in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. -- Photo by Pat Bean.

Gypsy Lee was my version of Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” RV, which now sits in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. — Photo by Pat Bean.

So on reading one of these lists recently, I decided to put together my own list of “10 Books that Influenced my Life.” I came up with the list in just a couple of minutes, and afterwards I could probably have listed another 10 books.

But here is the list of the first thoughts that scrambled through my little grey cells.

“I Married Adventure,” by Osa Johnson. This was the first travel book I ever read, and it gave me my first inkling that I was born with wanderlust in my soul. I checked the book out of the library, from the adult section, when I was about nine years old.

“Forever Amber,” by Kathleen Winsor. I found this book in the bookcase of my grandfather’s book cabinet, the same place I found the works of Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fennimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, and many more of the classic writers, all of which I read at quite a young age. “Forever Amber” sticks out in my mind because when I reached junior high school,, I overheard a group of girls calling it a “dirty book.” I didn’t know what they meant so I went back and reread it – and still didn’t know what they meant. I was a late bloomer. The book, by the way, would almost get a G rating in today’s world. It was this book, however, that prompted me to never censor books my children read.

And reading about Tim Cahill's outdoor adventures encourage me to seek out my own adventure trails. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And reading about Tim Cahill’s outdoor adventures encourage me to seek out my own adventure trails. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Gone with the Wind,” by Margaret Mitchell. I so loved this book that I read it three times in the same year. Each read gave me a different meaning to the ending. It was this book that taught me that readers put their own interpretations to writing, and that there is more than one interpretation – and not always the one the author visualized.

“Blue Highways,” by William Least Heat Moon, the second most influential travel book I read. It was this author’s van travel that started my own travel dream, which I fulfilled when I spent 9 years living and traveling full-time in my small RV, Gypsy Lee.

“Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand, Wayne Dyer’s “Your Erroneous Zones,” and “The Women’s Room” by Marilyn French were read at a crucial turning point in my life. From one I learned that there was more than one way of looking at life, and came to the conclusion that the one and just about only true evil was to harm another person. From another, I realized that only I was responsible for my life and what I allowed in it, and from the third I accepted my strong feminine self that social expectations had dampened. As far as forming the core of my being, these three books are significantly responsible.

“The Snow Leopard,” by Peter Matthiessen. This is one of the books that fed my passion for the outdoors, travel and the natural world. It turned me on to environmentalism and gave me a new way of looking at things.

And “On the Road with Charles Kuralt,” and “Road Fever” by Tim Cahill helped define my travel writing style. I wanted to capture both the simplicity and joy of life that Kuralt brought to his writing and TV segments, and I identified with Cahill’s love of the outdoors and adventure and understood his understated sense of humor. I wanted to write like Cahilll, but with a feminine voice and eyes.

Just off the top of your head, what 10 books most influenced your life?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Where’s My Backpack, http://tinyurl.com/lkxupke and Incidentally http://tinyurl.com/oyjp95f These two blogs let readers travel from their armchairs, a pastime I indulge in frequently when I’m not actually on the road. The first blog takes you on a walk through Rome, and the other lets you enjoy the beauty of stained class art if you are in the vicinity of Chicago.

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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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Where the road leads, I followed. This one let to the top of Mesa Verde in Colorado. — Photo by Pat Bean

There are needs, and then there are NEEDS

I know what it means to have a tugging in your heart that must be answered. A need to be loved, when I thought I wasn’t, was the first. Fulfilling that need had both good and bad consequences, but my children, their children, and their children made the journey worthwhile.

"I Married Adenture" by Osa Johnson.

“I Married Adventure” by Osa Johnson.

The second, the one that defined me as the wondering-wanderer, started at about age 12 when I read Osa Johnson’s “I Married Adventure.” From the first pages of that book until forever,  traveling to see the world has been in my blood. Exactly how I wanted to see North America firmed up after I read William Least Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways.

The third thing that tugged at me waited until I was a young mother with young children, all of whom had given me a very vexing day. My 6-year-old son had taught his younger brothers how to climb the backyard fence, then he and his 8-year-old sister had engaged in serious sibling rivalry all day. The youngest boy, meanwhile,  had gotten into the sugar bowl and had tracked the sweet granules all over the house.

I was close to being a sobbing mess when my 4-year-old son gifted me with a stemless yellow flower. The adoring look in his eyes turned what had been a shadowed day into one of bright sunshine. Never mind that he had stolen the flower from the neighbor’s yard.

blue-highways-2At about 2 a.m. the next morning, I woke up and felt this burning need to write about how that yellow flower had affected me. From that minute forward, I have needed to write as much as I needed to breathe.

Perhaps that is why when I learned about Steven Newman’s book, “Worldwalk,” in which he wrote about his four-year walk around the world, I knew it was a book I had to read.

I quickly discovered that the 1989 book –which details Steve’s optimistic 15,000-mile trek (of course he took boats where he couldn’t walk) across five continents and 20 countries, with only what would fit in a backpack — was not just not available on Kindle, it was out of print.

Thanks to the Internet, however, I found a rag-eared, stained paperback, copy for which I paid $1 plus $3.99 in shipping charges. The book didn’t disappoint, and I highly recommend it to any reader who believes the good in this world outweighs the bad, and who has an insatiable need to see the world, even if from an armchair.  

In fact, if you’re the first to request my copy, by privately messaging me on Facebook or e-mail, I’ll mail it to you free.  I love sharing books I have read.

Bean’s Pat:  Peregrine falcons http://tinyurl.com/b7hasb7 If you want to feel proud of yourself as a human being who cares that we share the land with wildlife, this is a bird that should help. Peregrine falcons, once nearing extinction, made a tremendous comeback after we humans started caring – and banned the use of DDT.

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 “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Ten of Hundreds

 

Lake Powell, which destroyed Glen Canyon and which wouldn’t ever have existed if Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang” characters had anything to say about it. — Photo by Pat Bean

I won’t say these are my 10 favorite travel books, because I could name 10 more just as easily. But these are books that influenced my decision to become rootless and make the road my home for the past eight years.

I Married Adventure, 1940, by Osa Johnson. I picked this book up at the library when I was about 10 years old. I was always sneaking into the adult section. I think I already knew I had wanderlust, and this book simply confirmed it. I, too, wanted adventure.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. My 22-foot RV, Gypsy Lee, is my version of Moon’s green van, Ghost Dancing. I loved this book so much that I’ve given dozens of copies away as gifts. The green-dotted scenic byways marked on today’s maps are my blue highways.

Road Fever, by Tim Cahill, I have loved everything this Wyoming author has written, especially this book that details a 15,000-mile trip from Tierra del Fuego to the top of Alaska. I’ve read everything this author has written that I could come across, including his many Outside magazine stories.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. This book fueled my desire to walk the Appalachian Trail, but except for a few miles on various sections it’s a to-do list item that I’ve waited too long to get around to doing. But I still have time to hike at least a few more miles on this trail whenever I come across one of its many trailheads.

One of Charles Kuralt’s more popular “On the Road” episodes wat the time he hooked up with a botanist to put names to all the wildflowers he was seeing, like this fireweed. — Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. I read this book many years ago, but reread it when I took to the road in 2004. My wordsmith friend, Charlie Trentelman, mentioned that I was the female version of Steinbeck, thus the title of my travel book, “Travels With Maggie.” Thank you Steinbeck.

On the Road with Charles Kuralt. Charles Kuralt was also influenced by Steinbeck. Kuralt, meanwhile, is actually the traveler most like me. We were both journalists, and we both prefer looking at life’s brighter side. I cried when Kuralt died, and one of my favorite travel photos is of his “On the Road” RV that’s on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthieson. A fantastic writer who makes one think. This book brought the Himalayas to life for me. I was privileged to have once heard this author speak.

Out of Africa by Isek Dinesen. Like Osa Johnson, this book made me want to travel to Africa. Not only did I do that in 2007, I visited Dinesen’s former coffee plantation in Nairobi.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. While I loved this book, Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is my favorite of all that he has written. It, too, could be considered a travel book in that it includes awesome descriptions of Utah and Arizona’s red-rock landscape.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. No travel book collection would be complete without Theroux. This is my favorite of his many.

Book Report: Busy morning, then a four-hour lunch with a group of mostly crazy old broads, whose Bay of Pigs nickname rivals my former group of crazy old broad friends called the Murder of Crows, that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. It comes under my umbrella mantra of smelling all the flowers and grabbing all the gusto this life has to offer. While I will do some editing as part of the rewrite of my travel book late this afternoon, I doubt I will add any significant word count. It’s the story of my writing life, conflicting goals. The good thing is that I no longer flagellate myself for such lapses.

Bean’s Pat: Photos and Facets; http://tinyurl.com/ckpfxer No! It’s not the London Bridge you’ve been seeing on television.

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 “We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving. And we all have some power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing. — Louisa May Alcott

African Safari: The Dream

Frank Buck, a macho "bring-em-back-alive" hunter/explorer, provided the first generation of many of today's zoo animals. He also whet my dreams to visit the dark continent. -- Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

For the most part, I’ve been perfectly happy traveling only where my RV Gypsy Lee will take me. America has the most amazing and diversified landscapes – from Death Valley to the Grand Canyon and the Denali peaks to the Everglades’ river of grass – one can find anywhere.

Perhaps that’s only my opinion, but I’m sticking to it and challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

I’ve driven this country from coast to coast and border to border, finding beauty everywhere I go. People ask me what’s my favorite place, and I’m always hard-pressed to answer because I have so many.

But I also grew up reading Osa Johnson and Frank Buck’s tales of Africa. This dark continent so full of wild animals and mystery called to me. The truth is it called and called for many years before my dream of an African Safari finally became a reality four years ago.

Since this is a travel blog, and since Maggie and I, are currently camped out until mid-September here at Lake Walcott State Park in Southern Idaho, where I’m a volunteer campground host, I’ve decided this is the perfect opportunity for me to share my African adventure with you.

I began planning for the trip three years in advance, first telling my good friend, Kim, my travel plans. She and I, over the years, had already shared many adventures, like battling white-water rapids together and getting lost while four-wheeling up an unpaved, muddy canyon.

Osa's Ark: The plane that Osa Johnson and her husband used to study African wildlife, which she wrote about in "I Married African." Her book lit the fire in my desire to visit Africa. -- Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

“You’re not going without me,” she responded. And I didn’t.

Together, we decided to do the trip first-class, and for three years we each saved the approximate $10,000 cost that covered airfare, in-country transportation, guides, luxury camping (even in tents), daily safari trips, tips and souvenirs.

After pouring over brochures, we chose The Africa Adventure Company to make all arrangements for us, and our choice of tours was their 16-Day African Journeys’ Safari to Tanzania and Kenya, the cost of which I noted on their website http://africa-adventure.com/ this morning begins at $6,450. It was a bit less back in 2007.

Next Episode: Travel Details. Please journey with me as I relieve, from beginning to end, my African safari.

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This was the first travel book I read. Do you remember your first. -- Photo courtesy Wikipedia

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Travels With Maggie

Osa Johnson wrote I Married Adventure the year after I was born. I think I was about 10 years old when I came across her book in the public library. It was the first travel book I ever read, and I was enthralled. From that moment on, I dreamed of having her kind of adventures.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I finally made it to Africa and went on a safari. Things had tremendously changed from Osa’s days, but at least I got to see wild lions and leopards and monkeys and elephants and all the other animals she wrote about in the book that captured my dreams. My great-grandchildren may not be so fortunate.

I’ve read hundreds of travel books since then. There’s always one by my bedside. Choosing just 10 to list here was difficult. I could easily have listed 10 different ones and been just as truthful. The ones I’ve chosen, however, have special meaning to me. I’ve just told you about the first. Here are the other nine – in no particular order.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. It was this book that was the role model for my present-day RV travels.

If your funny bone is like mine, this will tickle it.

On the Road

by Charles Kuralt. I was an upbeat journalist with a desire to travel. How could this book not be on my list?

Road Fever by Tim Cahill. I’ve read just about everything this crazy Montanan has written. I get his sense of humor.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. An author with a strong sense of conservation and the value of both the landscape and wildlife.

Dessert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. An irreverent writer who writes about the landscapes I’ve trod and who loves them as much as I do.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. One person’s account of an Everest expedition in which lives were lost, one of whom I had met and interviewed. His is not the only version of events but his writing can’t be faulted. I couldn’t stop reading.

Out of Africa by Isek Dineson. Once again my adventurous spirit is touched. I visited the home, now a museum, of Karen Blixen (alias Dineson) when I was in Africa.

John Steinbeck and Charley. Maggie and I are their counterparts but we don't follow in their wheel tracks. -- Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 Around the World in 80 Days

by Jules Verne. Does a fictional book count as   a travel book? I vote that this one does.

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. When I first began planning my RV travels, I reread this book after a friend said Maggie and I were the female version of Steinbeck and Charley. I even toyed with the idea of retracing this great writer’s journey, but then wisely decided I needed to find my on path on the road.

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