The Author

DANIEL SPRAGUE_1

Khyber Bazaar Bombsite, Peshawar, NWFP, Pakistan, 9th October 2009. Photograph courtesy of Alexandre Meneghini

I was born in the UK in 1982. As a child I had no interest in what seemed somehow to entertain other children; I could not see what the attraction of kicking a football around the school yard every break- and lunch-time was. I think I began from an early age to withdraw and started to live in my own intermediate domain, in a semi-fantastical world which was above the mundanity around me, yet still constrained by reality. I never for instance dreamt of super-powers or space travel or other such nonsense. Merely, I longed for something more exciting than the limits of the school grounds, and would happily stare out of windows, or beyond the edge of the sports field, imagining what lay beyond.

Throughout the insecurities and uncertainties of adolescence, I think I lost sight of this domain. I presume that for most people, this is the process of ‘growing up’, where one resigns one’s dreams to pure fantasy and accepts a life of mundanity; work, career, family, retirement, death. When I was eighteen, I happened to discover that there was a world out there, available just by the act of travelling into it, where I could live out these fantasies; of brilliant blue skies, endless golden sand dunes unfolding to a distant horizon, soaring, snowcapped mountain ranges, towering castles perched above rolling grassy steppes, rugged coastlines falling into a turquoise ocean. Where these images came from, and why they mean so much to me, I am unsure of, lost most likely in the vivid imagery of childhood. But they were out there for me to collect. I just had to avoid ‘growing up’.

My early trips to Africa and South America focused very much on pure imagery, and it is through this that I developed a pressing urge to photographically document my travels. Not just as memory triggers for posterity, but to capture these fantastical images for myself, to keep. In June 2003 I embarked on what was to be a life-defining trip; my first trip to Asia, travelling overland from Istanbul to Beijing. In addition to truly sublime scenery, I started to appreciate cultural richness; that there were cities out there filled with beautiful architecture, cities so ancient and rich with human activity that they seemed to be living organisms, and to be of interest in themselves, unlike the soulless piles of brick and concrete which I invariably find Western European cities to be.

The biggest discovery however was of the people. I found people who were warm, welcoming and open. People with whom one could very quickly strike up a relationship, despite sometimes very considerable cultural differences. In contrast to what the media projects through foul television channels and worthless gutter newspapers, the outside world was full of decent human beings who were disarmingly kind and trustful. I am a committed atheist, but to my surprise I found kindred spirits in the people of faith whom I met. Like myself, I suppose, they too live in a state of detachment from mundanity, living in a dream-world dictated by scripture, with faith as their fantasy. For the first time I was surrounded by people who placed value in the abstract and immaterial, and not in simply money and possessions.

I never looked back from my 2003 trip, and have focussed on little other than travelling since this time. In 2006 I made a series of very short trips with rental cars in the Middle East, and quickly realised that for me, travelling with one’s own vehicle was a far superior means of travelling than relying on public transport. In the more than five years of the Odyssey described on this website, I fulfilled what felt like my lifelong ambition. For me, I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than the freedom of being self-sufficient (on a short time-scale) in a capable off-road vehicle and having free access to much of the Eurasian continent.

At present, I have to split my time between travelling and mundanity, between the real world where I can travel and fulfil my dreams, and the narrow, colourless, flavourless mundanity of working and spending time in western Europe. This has left me with something of a bipolar life, with fantastic highs of freedom, discovery and friendship separated necessarily (at present at least) by dull periods of lonely settled life, desperately trying not to become like those around me, wrapped up in their own provincial lives, insulated in the arrogance of their own cultures, fearful of the outside world.

In the future, I would like to spend a few years exploring Africa; perhaps a year in South America. I’d like to own a yacht and sail around the world, spending a year or two sailing around the islands of the Pacific Ocean. I’d also like to try living somewhere pleasant, and turn my back permanently on the grey, lifelessness of Western Europe, to see if settled life elsewhere can satisfy my imagination. I must however face two difficult truths; firstly, that having accomplished my life’s dream before the age of thirty, I may never find anything more fulfilling than the trip which is described on this website, and secondly, that living as I do, threading a path between reality and fantasy, I may end my days in such a state, still believing that anything is possible, and that life, with its endless sensations and opportunities, is really just beginning. In the words of Colin Thubron: ‘I can understand how a journey can be seen as a metaphor for life, a voyage through time as well as space; time seen as a road’. Where this road leads to, I have no idea. Increasingly, I suspect there is no destination at all.

This website portrays my life from the age of twenty-five onwards, separated by hiatuses of mundanity. There are photographs of the places I have seen, and sometimes the people I have met. These are the images of my imagination. Around these are my attempt to describe the physical journey, retrospectively, from notes, photographs and memory. I hope you enjoy what you see and / or read.

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3 thoughts on “The Author

  1. Great blog! So much information, thank you!
    I have seen your feedback on Lonely Planet on Afghanistan and I have some specific question to ask you about this, if you can spare the time…
    I couldn’t find your direct email address…
    So, if you can, please email me directly, so that we can take this offline.

    Thanks!
    Dimitri Kieffer
    Nexusexpeditions.com
    dimitri_kieffer@hotmail.com

  2. Dear Author,

    I read a post on your blog, EuraisaOverland, regarding your trip from Pakistan to Afghanistan. I have a question about that route. Basically, I am a Pakistani citizen and I am planning to visit Kabul once. Getting a visa to Afghanistan, as I have enquired, seems pretty straightforward. However, the journey and safety are two of my family’s biggest concerns. So, the thing is that in order to cut costs and keep it affordable (since I am a student from Lahore), hence I want to travel from Peshawar to Kabul via Road. Because the most flights are routed through Dubai which adds to the expenses and make it unaffordable for me. So, could you please tell me if it is possible to travel from Peshawar to Kabul via Road? Like, is there some transportation company that operates a bus or a van for this route? And, how long does it take? How much trouble is it getting through the immigration checkpoints and border controls between Pakistan and Afghanistan? The direct flight costs between $350-400. So, do you think it would be worth taking the risk of going by road to Kabul from Peshawar? Please feel free to give me your insights on this question. My parents are discouraging me from visiting Kabul but I have a strong desire to visit it at least once in my life. Therefore, I would love to hear your feedback. Also, if you could tell me about budget hostel accommodation in Kabul, that would be great too. Looking forward to read your response to this. My email is: usamahameedsami@gmail.com

    Sincerely,
    Usama Hameed Sami
    Forman Christian College Lahore
    Pakistan
    usamahameedsami@gmail.com

  3. Hello

    I am a writer that will be travelling in similar places in the former USSR – beginning in Bishkek. I really loved your blog and it’s because of it that I will be choosing to begin Bishkek (and not Vladivostok). Would I be able to ask you some questions? My email is kurtjohn@gmail.com

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