I feel very bad that I had to deface this book. It came to me in such hideous, unreadable condition, with smashed dead bugs inside and a frightening stain on the lower front corners that I had to trim those parts off and do my best removing the dead bugs. I almost threw it away, but I really wanted to read it. Sadly, it's also signed by the author. I'll take it to The Book Trader, but they'll probably just put it in their 'Free Books' box, if they don't just toss it.
This book was recommended by another blogger. My library didn't have a copy, so I bought my used, very used, copy on line. I'm glad I pursued it. I loved it.
In her early to mid 50s, Anne Mustoe, a widowed, well-off, headmistress, decided she'd like to ride a bicycle around the world. She wasn't a cycler and wasn't in very good shape, but she took a few years to plan her route and, in the late 1980s, off she went. Alone.
She'd been educated in the Classics, so she wanted to follow the old Roman roads when possible and then follow the trail of Alexander the Great into Turkey and Asia. Everything she needed, she carried with her in the panniers on her bike.
Most of the people she met were admiring and amazed that she was travelling alone. Some told her she'd inspired them to do things they'd decided they were too old to do. Often, they would offer her a bed for the night, and she usually accepted.
Biking gave her the opportunity to talk to people in small towns and villages that she never would have met had she been driving. Most of the people she met were friendly and kind. A few were not. She decides that the most generous people were the poorest. In a touching story, she tells of the very poor family who invited her to dinner, sharing their food with her, just a small spoonful for each. Her least favorite places seemed to be India and Missouri.
She'd been used to fine bedding, good food and drink, and a rather posh life. But she soon adapts to less than ideal, less than clean sleeping conditions. For lots of reasons, I wouldn't have lasted on this trip. She begins to relish the freedom from possessions and the freedom that she has to go wherever and do whatever she wants. A few times, she's joined by friends for a week or two.
She finishes her trip in London, where she started. She lost 23 pounds, rode 12,000 miles, and was gone for 439 days.
For someone looking for a vicarious adventure, I'd recommend A Bike Ride.