A True Adventurer

Over the years, as befitting my perch as the publisher (and occasional) author of Choose Your Own Adventure, I’ve had my share of edgy travel. There was the time my husband Ray (R. A. Montgomery) and I decided to go diving waaaay off the coast of Thailand, on an outer, outer reef, only to discover as we bounced in the six foot waves on our return, that the boat we had contracted to take us there was made of plywood painted to look like fiberglass, and that was glued and not nailed together. Yikes. There was the infamous incident of the unexcavated Mayan ruin deep the in Guatemalan jungle, where we spent several magical hours clambering over an amazing stone amphitheater, ball court and temple, only to find that our car would not start when we were ready to return home. Since we were literally hours by foot from the nearest crossroads, this was not minimal. Double yikes. And of course there was the trip to Japan where we were chased and attacked by wild monkeys in hills of Arashiyama on the outskirts of the city of Kyoto. Due to a very bad translation, the park wardens understood that we had been chased and attacked by wild boars. Since no one had seen a wild boar in the vicinity since the late 15th century, much hilarity ensued at our expense.
But all of that was travel. Extreme travel maybe. But still travel.  
And while many of our friends thought of us as true adventurers - and our association with CYOA helped burnish that image - no matter how far afield we went, there was never much doubt that a comfortable bed and a hot meal was not more than a few days or at most a week away from wherever we were. While we loved to pursue extremes, there was always an "end date" to whatever we did. Our risks were couched ultimately in the context of a return to safety and comfort. We took risks for sure, but they were not open-ended risks and we had a pretty good idea from the start of how things would turn out.

Then there are people like our dear friend Barney Loehnis. Barney crosses over from mere adventure traveler to the definition of a real adventurer. In all caps. When he was 18, he flew to Istanbul and started a long walk home to London that took several months. A few years after that, upon finishing university, Barney decided to retrace the steps of Mao Tse Tung's Long March across the interior of China. To put this in context, Mao started out the Long March with 70,000 troops and 15,000 support personnel. Only 4,000 men finished the trip a year later, a walk that had crossed some of China’s most inhospitable and unforgiving terrain. In the course of Barney's six month perambulation, he would wear out several pairs of boots and be arrested more than 50 times. He spent his nights as often in a local jail, as in the home of a hospitable local family willing to host and feed this crazy wanderer. Barney left on this trip not knowing how it would end up or if he would finish alive. Happily for us, he did, and lived to tell the tale. He is the only person since 1934 to have retraced Mao’s famous journey.

If you are free tonight, and would like to hear more, you can tune in at 7PM ET to a Zoom presentation from the New Canaan Public Library, where Barney will speak about his two trips. I promise you will not be bored.  

May all your adventures end well!

-Shannon Gilligan

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