Dubai: Arrests, near-fatal car crashes, and eccentric characters are just some of the stories British author-explorer Levison Wood shared during the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai on Saturday.
Wood, 35, known for his on-foot journeys through difficult and dangerous terrain, was giving a talk on his latest book ‘Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road.’
He said his expeditions bring together his love for travel and different cultures. Wood, who has been a member of the British army, explained that by “travelling on foot, doing these expeditions, gave me the opportunity to travel at the slowest pace and force myself, almost, to interact with people”.
Not surprisingly then, some of the most memorable encounters — both hospitable and otherwise — have involved people.
He recalled how, after going to great lengths to meet the Dalai Lama, he suffered a “mind blank” when he and a companion eventually met the Buddhist spiritual leader to ask him questions.
“And the best that we could come up with was ‘have you ever worn trousers?’ He skilfully avoided that one. We were hoping for the ‘meaning of life’ or something. But he gave us some very useful travel advice on how to get a visa for China,” Wood said.
He also revealed how he makes it a point to always pack a clean white shirt, which he feels helps with “presence” if he gets arrested on his journeys, which sometimes take him through restive regions. “Looking smart can make a difference.”
Wood also shared a near-death experience when the taxi he was in, during a visit to Nepal, went off a cliff after the brakes failed and he was badly injured. Wood recalled he was “convinced” he was “going to die” but there was no “whole life flashing before your eyes” moment, but “you do tend to swear a lot in your head”.
Needlessly to say, Wood’s adventurous sojourns mean he “struggles with travel insurance”.