For my first ever podcast, I’m delighted to have been able to chat with Rob Martineau, author of the forthcoming book, ‘Waypoints: A Journey on Foot’ (go and pre-order it!). I’ve called this podcast ‘Rough Cuts’, because it is an unedited conversation, and it is deliberately without a music intro and outro - we just go straight into the conversation. I hope the roughness around the edges of this works for you.
Rob has written a quite remarkable, and difficult to classify, book - one that is part meditation, part memoir, part travelogue and part discursive nonfiction (blurb and my endorsement below). It is rich, rewarding, visceral reading - you feel yourself on this 1000 mile looping walk in west Africa - through Ghana, Togo and Benin.
Waypoints reveals the kindnesses and comforts offered by strangers to a lone traveler, seeing in his walking, perhaps, something of themselves as fellow-travelers on the journey through life. The evoked sights and sounds linger long in the mind - this is a book to read through, and one to go back and flick through, picking out differing episodes and savouring them.
Rob is a ‘brave’ walker - setting out alone, into the unknown, hoping for the best, and lacking all of the comforts of home. This is a journey partly recapitulating those astonishing walks out of Africa our ancestors undertook to conquer the world. I’ve never undertaken a walk like this - I feel I should, and perhaps I will - sometime! Meanwhile, I argue here for the much-needed and full re-incorporation of walking into everyday life - there’s a nice complementarity here, imho.
Waypoints: A Journey on Foot Hardcover – 1 April 2021
A spellbinding travel book, exploring the psychology of walking, pilgrimage, solitude and escape.
At the age of twenty-seven, and afraid of falling into a life he doesn't want, Robert Martineau quits his office job, buys a flight to Accra and begins to walk. He walks 1,000 miles through Ghana, Togo and Benin, to Ouidah, an ancient spiritual centre on the West African coast.
Martineau walks alone across desert, through rainforests, over mountains, carrying everything he needs on his back, sleeping in villages or on the side of paths. Along the way he meets shamans, priests, historians, archaeologists and kings. He begins to confront the lines of slavery and exploitation that binds his home to theirs. Through the process of walking each day, and the lessons of those he walks among, Martineau starts to find the freedom he craves, and to build connections with the natural world and the past.
In an extraordinary account of an adventure, and the inner journey that accompanies it, Martineau discovers how a walking pilgrimage can change a person.
Waypoints wonderfully explores how walking animates resilience in times of stress, anxiety and worry, illustrating, through personal experience, how the journey is often our collective human goal. -- Shane O'Mara, author of 'In Praise of Walking'