Images of London


We’ll get to North Korea soon, I promise. I’m in London at the moment and wanted to share something with you.

Spent some time searching for the tomb of one of my heroes. He’s buried in a marble replica of a Bedouin tent in a little cemetery in Mortlake…


tomb1.jpgCaptain Richard Francis Burton lived a life people today would hardly find believable. He spoke some 29 languages and dialects. One of the most prolific adventurers of all time, he was the first European to enter the Ethiopian city of Harare, was co-discoverer of the source of the Nile, and was one of the few foreigners ever to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in disguise. Burton was also a master of the sword. On one expedition he fought off an attack by Somali tribesman that saw him wounded through the mouth by a spear, the scars of which are visible in all his later photographs.


Burton’s writings provide a fascinating glimpse into an age when we still hadn’t come to grips with the limits of our known world. They contain a wealth of detailed observations about native peoples, plants, wildlife, minerals, ruins, and the etymology of place names, and yet are seldom dry. His sense of wonder at penetrating the unknown and the freedom of exploration are always present.

Burton was also a man ahead of his time. He translated the Kama Sutra when Victorian morals would rather have seen it repressed. He referred to native peoples as “intelligent and humane” when most regarded non-Europeans as “sub-human”. He approached the world on its terms rather than his own. For the serious traveler, all of his works are worth reading.


tomb4.jpgStay tuned for more notes from the road…



About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.



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