Welcome to the world of A Maverick Traveller – it’s a pretty exciting world!
Mary Jane Walker is a New Zealand writer of historically well-informed travel memoirs that come with an autobiographical flavour. She has been described as a younger, female Bill Bryson, though with her own unique voice.
“A Maverick Traveller is the best kind of travel book, a salmagundi of political and cultural reflections by an educated, thoughtful and aware writer with a master’s degree in political studies.” – so says my editor, Chris Harris.
After a short stint in Australia, and trips to Bali and Malaysia, Mary Jane signed on in 1982 for an extraordinary voyage from Canton, nowadays Guangzhou, to Paris in a Chinese junk, La Dame de Canton, the first to be built in the old way in decades. This was the first time a Chinese junk had made such a voyage from East to West, and A Maverick Traveller is the first book in which any serious and sustained account of the historic voyage has appeared – the crew all went their separate ways, and the whole thing was eventually forgotten about. Until now.
A Maverick Traveller is the most autobiographical of Mary Jane’s travel memoirs, and it also introduces many of the journeys that Mary Jane describes in her later books.
Whether it was eating dog unintentionally in Indonesia, meeting the rapper 50 Cent before he was famous at a back-packers, or kicking a US nuclear submarine in New Zealand, A Maverick Traveller is filled with Mary Jane’s unique stories and experiences from all corners of the globe: large cities, rural villages and tiny unknown islands off the coast of continents.
There’s an insightful chapter on ‘Holidays Gone Wrong’ where Mary Jane describes several travellers’ fails – but worse is to come in the next chapter, in which the New Zealand adventure tourism industry is also shown to leave rather a lot to be desired.
In her final chapters, Mary Jane heads into the South Island’s North-West Nelson region in search of the legendary Asbestos Cottage (not as unhealthy as it sounds), and then off to Ireland’s remote Blasket Islands, Scotland, and Spain once more, including a stretch on the pilgrim trail, El Camino del Norte, after a visit to Lourdes in France.
To do justice to all this travel and reflection, A Maverick Traveller weighs in over seventy thousand words in forty-one chapters (each less than two thousand words long on average), with over sixty photographs. Is A Maverick Traveller value for money? Is it ideal for reading on a plane, train or bus? You bet.