Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures

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Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures, Russ Malkin, book reviewI am what you might call a vicarious traveller. I would love to travel the world but am not able to at this point in my life, so I travel from my living room, watching TV and reading books. Among my favourites are the Long Way Round and Long Way Down shows by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, along with Charley’s solo shows. Russ Malkin was an integral part of the team for these adventures, both as producer and as a member of the support team, so you can understand I was quite excited to hear about his book, Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures.

Big Earth is a kind of “directory” of trips, adventures and experiences which you can undertake around the world. All have been tried and tested, and each is categorised as “Long weekend”, “Two weeks off work” or “Once in a lifetime” . They range from sailing a barge on the Welsh canals to jungle survival training in Guyana to travelling the Road of Bones in far-eastern Russia. Practical information is given for each – who to contact, when to book, when to go, along with some tips for when you are actually undertaking the adventure.

The bulk of each section is taken up with personal experience however. Russ Malkin has done most of these adventures himself, and so he writes about the experience he had, often with humour. In his introduction he states that all the adventures have been trialled, but does not say that he has done them all – it is usually clear when he has not done something, as the section tends to be written in rather general terms, presumably with the information provided by another member of the Big Earth team (Big Earth is Russ’s company) who has completed that particular adventure.

Big Earth is not entirely what I was expecting – I didn’t realise that it was a “directory” of suggestions for adventures, but had thought it was a book about Russ’s many trips. In a sense I was partially right, as Russ gives plenty of his personal experience. The directory style layout actually works very well – it is clear to follow and each adventure has its own dedicated section. Russ is clear on several occasions through Big Earth that these are only suggestions – readers can change them, use them for inspiration or follow them exactly, whatever you fancy. The point of an adventure is that it is something special.

Most of the adventures fall into the “Two weeks off work” category, which is a real positive as it makes you think that all these incredible experiences are genuinely accessible. The “Long weekend” category is used for the UK-based adventures and some of the European ones. The few “Once in a lifetime” adventures denote either a longer trip or a particularly special experience which may require more planning or dedication.

“I feel inspired by Big Earth

The book itself is very impressive. It is packed full of bright colours, both in the photos and in the text and background colours. The photos are stunning, lots of impressive vistas and shots of Russ in exotic locations – always with a wide smile, which you might think is off-putting if you only want pictures of the places, but these happy shots of him really lighten the book.

I do however have a couple of issues with Big Earth. There are a few entries for trips that Russ undertook as part of Long Way Round, Long Way Down, Race to Dakar and the two By Any Means shows. He takes a particular section of the overall trip and includes it as an adventure – such as the Road of Bones, riding an elephant in Nepal, entering the Dakar Rally, staying with an African tribe and riding through Ethiopia. Within a couple of these I noticed some misleading information – not errors, but implications that Russ had done something I knew he had not. In the Road of Bones for example, he mentions that “we” were riding motorcycles – Russ did not ride a motorcycle through the Road of Bones, he was in a support vehicle (for Long Way Round) but there is no mention of the team’s two 4×4 support vehicles. A similar implication is made in the section on Ethiopia.

Another small issue, and one which may be the fault of the editors or designers, but there are photos included in the wrong place. I spotted this in the section on the Road of Bones – four of the six photos which feature Ewan and Charley are from their Long Way Down trip through Africa. Perhaps it would take a trained eye like mine to have spotted that (I have said that if I ever went on Mastermind, the Long Way trips would be my specialist subject), but it makes me wonder if this mistake has been made anywhere else – have other photos been mixed up?

However, I am nitpicking here – these issues do not detract from the book as a whole. Russ did travel the Road of Bones and knows well enough how it would be on motorcycles – in fact due to the season they travelled during, the bikes were unable to travel much of the road.

Big Earth is an interesting and enjoyable book. I feel inspired by it – although the odds of me doing any of these adventures are slim to none, it makes me hope to see more of the world one day. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, a travel guide or simply an enjoyable travel book, Russ Malkin has fulfilled all those with Big Earth.

Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures by Russ Malkin
Published by Bantam Press/Transworld, April 2011
Many thanks to Transworld for providing a review copy of Big Earth.

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Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures
by Russ Malkin

One Comment on "Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures"

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse
    15/09/2011 at 15:36 Permalink

    “I would love to travel the world but am not able to at this point in my life, so I travel from my living room, watching TV and reading books.”

    You may be interested in Tom Carter, his Website, Blog and book (you don’t have to buy the book to see many of his photos on his site), China, Portrait of a People. Carter visited every province of China mostly on foot and shot thousands of photos, which are incredible.

    Here’s a link to his YouTube video of his next book on India, which isn’t out yet.

    I have posted several of his posts about China on my Blog.

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Written by eilidhcatriona

A Scottish lass in her late twenties living in London. A prolific reader always interested in something new.

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