The Salt Path: A Book Comes to Life in England

The path plunges and rises with the valleys, over and over.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then walking the South West Coast Path is indescribable.

I am reading Raynor Winn’s best-selling book, The Salt Path, while walking in her footsteps on England’s South West Coast Path.

Except I am hardly following her lead.

Winn walked after she and her husband Moth lost their home in a business deal gone sour. Plus, he had just gotten news that he was dying from a neurological disease. They camped, mostly, and she wrote that they lived off 48 pounds a week. In two segments, they trekked almost all of the 630 miles.

Sue and I are fortunate that we are healthy and will return to our Oregon home. We have a shower, warm bed, and pub meals at the end of each day. We are carrying everything we need on our backs, sans the tent, sleeping bags and stove. Finally, should our script play out, we will hike “just” 260 miles from Minehead to Land’s End.

But, like Raynor and her husband and all who venture here, we are astounded by the glory of England’s southwest coast. The steep path challenges, but our senses bask in this experience.

An Adventurer Explores His Passion to be Way Out There

A warning: Read Way Out There and you may find yourself buying an old VW Beetle, driving to Alaska and discovering magic while camping in the wild. At 22, J. Robert Harris drove solo across Canada on his way to Alaska and as I read the opening chapter, his words delivered his unbridled sense of adventure.

Now 75, Harris writes about his favorite backpacking journeys that many would not consider, even with expert guides. The Arctic National Park and Preserve, Baffin Island, Tasmania, the northern reaches of Canada, Switzerland and Australia are among his destinations. One chapter takes readers for a gripping canoe adventure.

He packs impressive courage and finds a sense of peace miles from civilization, in the home territories of polar bears, grizzlies and wolves. He is often alone, but never lonely. Danger follows him, but it only succeeds in making his stories impossible to put aside.

Read Way Out There, if you dare.

Dalai Lama: Ethics and Life in a Big, Big World

He is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet, living as a refugee in India for 60 years.

He was Lhamo Thondup at birth. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, he has traveled the world, speaking out on topics well beyond his passions of human rights and Buddhism.

The 14th Dalai Lama, now 84, has authored numerous works, including Beyond Religion, a book I have read and read, and then read again.

One of the most revered leaders in the world, he draws readers into thought about the purpose of life, ethics, and how to be a better and happier person. His appeal crosses nationalities, races, religions, and practically every distinction that can be used to divide.

He poses questions about justice, nonviolence, materialism, capitalism, economic justice and a mountain of other topics.

In Beyond Religion, the Dalai Lama is optimistic and practical. Eloquent and approachable. Spiritual and human.

In the final chapter, he is a teacher, guiding readers through methods of mental cultivation through meditation.

Siddhartha: A Search for Fulfillment

Siddhartha is a handsome young Brahman who is wealthy, exceptionally intelligent, and loved. He seems to have it all, but he feels unfulfilled.

With his loving friend Govinda, he leaves his family and the comforts of home in search of enlightenment. He meets Gautama, but even life with the original Buddha is not enough, so he moves on, leaving Govinda behind. He fasts, lives without possessions, eventually slips back into materialism and a life with a beautiful woman.

As an old man living alone and working as a ferryman at a river, he reconnects with Govinda in a poignant meeting. Is Siddhartha, alas, fulfilled?

Siddhartha is German author’s Hermann Hesse’s most famous book. Hesse, who died in 1962 at 85, so beautifully describes Siddhartha’s journey that many readers return to the book. The conversations with people he meets are compelling and the narrative, originally written in German, is deeply human.

Each time I read Siddhartha, I find myself reading passages over and over. It resonated with me as a youth in the 1960s and it touches me as a man now in my late 60s. Messages of hope and beauty emerge from the book’s shadows.

Siddhartha mirrors aspects of Hesse’s own life of discontent. The author suffered depression as a child, attended a seminary, where he rebelled and fled. He attempted suicide at 15.

I devoured all of Hesse’s novels while I was in college in the early 1970s. Siddhartha was my favorite, but I was also drawn to Narcissus and Goldmund and Peter Camenzind. Click on the book cover above to go to Amazon.

Is there a Siddhartha in all of us?