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.

Good Scammer


Good Scammer by Guy Kennaway This is the book Horatio Alger would have written if an Alger hero came from a post-colonial Caribbean island awash with foreign money that never seems to trickle down to the poverty-stricken villages beyond gated tourist enclaves. The poorly educated, semi-literate orphan at the heart of Guy Kennaway’s latest novel experiences the ‘Rise to Respectability’, sees his...

Louisa Waugh: Life on the edge of Mongolia


Louisa Waugh Louisa Waugh lived in a village in the far west of Mongolia in the late 1990s and wrote a remarkable book about her experience. It’s a world of drought-stricken spring, lush summer pasture and brutal winters when fetching water meant hacking holes through river ice. In this harsh and stunningly beautiful landscape, villagers lived on mutton, dairy products and vodka, and met...

Wannsee and the bureaucracy of genocide


The villa of the Wannsee conference Remembrance Day isn’t observed here in the country that started and lost two World Wars. But Berlin is filled with memorials which commemorate the Twentieth Century’s darkest events. I normally stand alone in my study for the 11am moment of silence. But this year I decided to observe Remembrance Day by visiting the Wannsee villa where Nazi bureaucrats met to...

Bruce Chatwin: with editor and friend Susannah Clapp


Bruce Chatwin Bruce Chatwin’s first book — In Patagonia — changed our idea of what travel writing could be. Its structural is elliptical, almost episodic. Its truth is somewhere between fact and fiction. Its richly descriptive prose is built with short, simple sentences peppered with arcane words and a rich vocabulary. Chatwin described it as a ‘cubist’ portrait. The author was as...

The New Leviathans


The New Leviathans by John Gray Only a Leviathan can protect us from the state of nature: a “war of all against all” in which the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” So said Thomas Hobbes in his 1651 book of that name. The Leviathan Hobbes had in mind was a sovereign with unfettered power ceded by individuals in exchange for protection. This ruler would create conditions...

Laura Trethewey: Mapping our unknown oceans


Laura Trethewey This might just be the strangest landscape I’ve featured on the podcast. It’s a bizarre world of prairie flats larger than the Eurasian Steppe, a 40,000-mile-long underwater mountain range, and an underwater waterfall that makes Angel Falls look small. Only one quarter of it has been mapped, and less than 1% has been explored with remote vehicles. Why do we know so little about...

Unfinished Woman


Unfinished Woman by Robyn Davidson From the very first pages of her new memoir, Robyn Davidson grapples with how to recollect the past. “The way memory plays in the mind is not factual,” she writes. “It is sketchy, mythical, misremembered, contradictory. It is flickers of light on unfathomable darkness. We go back over and over the past, watching it change with each take, not thinking of it as...

We are staring into the abyss


I never imaged I would see a massive crowd chanting “Gas the Jews” on the streets of Sydney. Or the leader of an academic union representing sessional faculty at McMaster University — CUPE Local 3906 — celebrating the largest massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust, and then doubling down on it in the face of criticism.  If you’re a member of that union, the very least you can do is...

There is no moral equivalence for atrocity


I try to avoid politics on my blog. My focus is travel, culture and books. But I’m unable to tear myself away from the scenes of barbarity making their way out of Israel through Twitter, and sites like Bari Weiss’s Free Press substack. There’s one video I can’t get out of my head.  A young girl is yanked by her hair from the back of a Jeep by a man with a pistol who shouts “God is great”...

Tim Cocks: Life in Africa’s biggest megacity


Tim Cocks Lagos is a massive city with massive problems. It’s plagued by traffic jams, power cuts, street gangs, police extortion, widespread fraud, and every hustle under the sun. I’ve always been drawn to Africa’s desert regions in my own travels.  And I’ve always thought of Lagos as a place to avoid: a dangerous shithole where nothing good could possibly happen to the outsider unlucky...


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