Walking around in the Taklamakan takes a bit of work. This vast desert that sprawls over Gansu and Xinjiang Provinces is dubbed “the place from which you cannot return” – so what on earth makes people want to dive in?
The Silk Road used to fork around this enormous desert, snaking along its northern and southern fringes, to reconvene in the town of Dunhuang. I’d arrived at Dunhuang at about eight in the morning, in order to spend the next two days exploring its dunes, slipping down their sides, and pushing myself to imagine what it might be like to be lost here.
The desert is more sea than land – more of a void than a geographic space – and, as legend seems to insist, it can threaten to pull you deeper inside itself through charm alone.
Where at least part of the book (perhaps two pages) was written. The cafe outside Woody’s Guesthouse, Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Hello folks! I’m pleased to note that A Eurasian Diary has reached now reached a truly magical milestone, having sat in the Amazon e-book shop for precisely 3,720 hours (aww). What other figures can I throw at you, thanks to the weird and wonderful world of web wanalytics?
- 79 kissable people (and 0 unkissable people) have now downloaded A Eurasian Diary since it launched, which averages out to one book punted every two days. But averages lie, of course. In reality, there have been long, quiet spells where the book idles in ignominious nothingness, then, suddenly, blam! There’s this passionate flurry of, like, three downloads in an hour. Proof positive that praying works.
- Last month, the book was chuffed to be counted among Amazon.co.uk’s Top 20 most popular travel books about Central Asia. Of course, only 20 have ever been written. Still, #16, woo hoo!
- The British have gobbled up the most copies so far, followed by Canadians. The fact my family is split between these two fine countries is sheer coincidence! The coincidence literally couldn’t be sheerer.
- One book has been sold in India. That amounts to reaching 1/1.237 billionth of ALL INDIA.
- A Eurasian Diary clocks in at 75,721 words. Interestingly, if you search 75,721 in Google Maps, you come to a bizarrely griddled-looking bit of desert in western Saudi Arabia!
I’m running out of fun figures here, folks. But, if you too would like to become just another statistic, please dive in head first! Brits and Canucks are most welcome, as usual, but there’s also room for another billion Indians 🙂
It feels like a hundred years ago, but it’s only been a month. I’m not talking about babies (although we’re expecting one of those too!), but instead I’m talking about the anniversary of publishing A Eurasian Diary. What better occasion to release a free excerpt?
A Fergana woman packs taut cellophane tubes full of goodness. These portable lunches of lemon-dressed carrot, cucumber, cauliflower and coriander are delicious – pleasing both the palate and the arteries.
I’ve been humbled and honoured by the interest in this little travel tale so far, and I’m pleased as punch that so many of you have taken the time to take a wee gander. The experience of travelling the old Silk Road is difficult to put into words – that’s why I relied so much on others to do the talking for me. However repressive, bureaucratic, and generally bonkers the governments in Central Asia might be, you nevertheless find loads of incredible people who are friendly, open, honest, and hilarious in equal measure. Time spent with them felt more important (and more illuminating) than any bit of sightseeing, or any studious reflections on the region’s tumultuous history. So, I’m giving up a little example here. This passage from the book comes from a day spent in Fergana, an eastern Uzbekistani market town under vast reconstruction, under the guidance of the country’s authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov. His daughter is famous on Twitter – his subjects, in their millions, are much less well known – but, almost certainly, they’re more interesting. Thanks again for all the interest so far, and thanks for exploring this part of the world with me! To read the excerpt, click “continue reading” … obvs…. Continue reading
Covering six-thousand miles over sixty-eight days, A Eurasian Diary is the travelogue of a roundabout kind of reunion. Journeying through China’s Far West, onto the Silk Road and onwards to Europe, we encounter lands that are complex, beautiful and exceedingly friendly – leading us into some welcome (and, at times, a little bit unwelcome, if we’re honest) diversions from Best Laid Plans.
Pick up the story today for $2.99 in U.S. or Canadian money (or £1.99 in the UK). And, with 10% of the proceeds going to support the Community Based Tourism programme in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan, you’ll be helping me give a little something back as well – bargainsauce!
This coming Sunday, however wet, dreary and miserable the weather might seem, a warm light will suddenly ignite in the sky. A chorus of cherubic angels will lend harmony to the scene – doves and bunnies shall assemble with wolves, a double rainbow shall streak across the horizon, and volcanoes will spontaneously erupt chocolate mousse.
What event could possibly herald such wonders? A Eurasian Diary is gonna be launched – that is what!
The posters are ready, the typos are cleared away, and I think I understand the difference between .htm, .doc, and .png files well enough to finally send this infant tale soaring into the big bad world of Virtual Reading. Once it’s live, you’ll get the link to my Amazon page, and the necessary, details right here on the blog (so don’t go unsubscribin’!).
Exciting times indeed. Thanks for being a part of it out there – see you Sunday!
I’m currently as happy as a very happy thing. Take your happiest emoticon – the one with the smile that takes up the entire lower half of the face, and squeezes the eyes tightly shut. Now imagine that emoticon swollen up and plunked on the torso of a real live human being. Hi. That’s me.
After reaching the end of A Eurasian Diary, then working through a handful of edits, I’m happy (as noted) to say that I’ve saved the file as “Final v1” … in other words, it’s done.
…at least until “Final v2” comes along, and perhaps “Final v3.” But, nevermind that… it’s done!
(dances on desk)
(steps on keyboard)
(accidentally types gobbledygook with dancing feet)
What are some initial reflections on this big, bad, great little experience? One thing that stands out is how different travel writing feels to me now, compared with either fiction or journalism. At first, I’d expected that writing about a journey would feel like blending these two forms into a kind of storified biography, which is indeed how it felt at the very start. As the writing went on, though, the manuscript took on a new life – travel writing is very much a form in its own right, which I suppose I’d never completely appreciated before.
My favourite aspect of it is that you get to be (well, you have to be) objective about your own subjectivity. Continue reading
There comes a time in every journey when the gravitational pull of home takes over – psychologically as much as geographically, you’re closer than ever to completing your quest, and getting closer by the second.
That’s where things are with my wee little travelogue project – I’m now writing the very final paragraphs in A Eurasian Diary, with just 2,000 words to go till the whole first draft is done and dusted…! Wowsers. Should I be ecstatic or misty-eyed?
Whether with actual travel or with a big writing project, both emotions seem to apply. There’s sadness that your stream of discovery is drawing to a close, and that your daily triumphs in conquering the terrifying unknown (a.k.a. unwritten pages) are soon to be all completed. But, there’s also more than a bit of pride in having survived the quest you set out for yourself, and you can now indulge in some wonderful, well-earned comforts: spare time, and fantastic memories. Plus, once you’re done, you know you’re even better equipped now to go and do it again.