Winner of the RBC Taylor Prize
"Every day on a bike trip is like the one before - but it is also completely different, or perhaps you are different, woken up in new ways by the mile."
As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved - that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and philosopher - had gone extinct. From her small-town home in Ontario, it seemed as if Marco Polo, Magellan, and their like had long ago mapped the whole earth. So she vowed to become a scientist and go to Mars.
To pass the time before she could launch into outer space, Kate set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule, then settled down to study at Oxford and MIT. Eventually, the truth dawned on her: An explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. And Harris had soared most fully out of bounds right here on Earth, travelling a bygone trading route on her bicycle. So she quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Mel, this time determined to bike it from the beginning to end.
Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer before her, Kate Harris offers a travel narrative at once exuberant and meditative, wry and rapturous. Weaving adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of a world that, like the self and like the stars, can never be fully mapped.
What the critics say
Winner of the 2018 Banff Mountain Book Competition's Adventure Travel Award
“Kate Harris packs more exuberant spirit, intrepid charm, wit, poetry and beauty into her every paragraph than most of us can manage in a lifetime. Whether writing of Pony Club or remotest Tibet, her longing for Mars or her days at Oxford, she braids heart, mind and spirit with a wide-awake vitality that inspires wonder. Lands of Lost Borders carried me up into a state of openness and excitement I haven’t felt for years. It’s a modern classic.” (Pico Iyer)
“Kate Harris arrives among us like a meteor - a hurtling intelligence, inquiring into the nature of political borders and the meaning of crossing over. The honesty behind her self-doubt, her championing of simple human friendship, and her sheer determination to explore what she does not know, compel you to travel happily alongside her in Lands of Lost Borders.” (Barry Lopez)
“This is a hymn to the pure love of travel: a brave and astonishing journey.” (Colin Thubron)