Wednesday, 11 November 2015

An ’outdoor’ challenge came my way!

Last week I heard about a company named Cotopaxi and they had a challenge that tickled my curiosity. So, here I am, inspired to participate in a Cotopaxi project, to write a post about my favourite adventure book.
The Content Reader
Apart from Mount Sinai, this might be
the highest climb I ever did!
From Mallorca, Spain

Since I was not familiar with Cotopaxi, I did a little bit of research on the web. The first thing I learn is that Cotopaxi is an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, looks fabulous  in the pictures, and yes, I would like to visit! Scrolling further down I found the relevant Cotopaxi who is making outdoor clothing and accessories. They presents themselves as ”an outdoor gear company with a social mission”. That sounds like something I can agree too. Furthermore, and here is where she wanted my contribution; they have a section of their blog called "5 road trips inspired by adventure books". The books already there are:
  1. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  3. The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  5. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson 
The posts on these books are illustrated by a map with the tracks laid out. How easy can it be to ’follow in the foot steps’ of the books! And… do some healthy exercises on the way!

Hmm, ”noblesse oblige” as the French say. I really had to come up with something that could be considered an adventure, be a good adventure book, taking place in the outdoors and has the ability to track it down on a map. Well, for me, who don’t really read that many ’pure’ adventure books, there was only one choice; Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. To me, this is a real adventure book, in more ways than one.


Claire Randall is a nurse and is, with her husband, taking a second honeymoon in Scotland, just after the end of World War II. They travel to Inverness to get to know each other again, having been separated during the war. Frank has a second purpose to go to this area; he is an historian and is doing some research into his family tree; one of his ancestors were living here in the mid 18th century. While Frank is doing his research Claire, who has an interest in healing plants, makes excursions in the area to check out the flora. She comes across some standing stones in Craig Na Dun, an ancient holy place. As it happens, she starts hearing rumbling noises that seem to be coming from the stones. When she touches them, something is happening. She looses consciousness and when she wakes up, she is in the same place, but still not. She does not know it at this point, but will soon be aware that she is no longer in her own century.
The Content Reader
This books tells you all there is to know about
Outlander, its people, places and ideas
When she went through the stones she landed directly in a fight between a Scottish clan and English soldiers. It is 1743. She is rescued from a nasty captain, the ancestor of her husband as it turns out to be, and ends up with the clan MacKenzie. The fight is over and they are on the way home. There is only one problem; one of them has a dislocated shoulder. Not being anyone who stands by idle, and being a very good nurse, she makes herself useful by correcting the arm. The young man she is helping is Jamie MacKenzie and this is the beginning of a relationship that turns into all directions, but in the end, leads to an everlasting love between the two.

This first part of the series contains almost more adventure than you can cope with. The times are dangerous, the Jacobite risings are leading up to the Battle of Culloden, the end of the Scottish dream, people are poor, superstitious and religious. The war with the English affects all who are fighting for a free Scotland. We follow Claire and the clan in their daily doings, fighting their fights, their fears and their day to day survival. Claire with her knowledge of medicine, from two centuries ahead, is looked on with suspicion, even accused of witch craft. She is an amazing heroine; strong willed, knowledgable, brave, beautiful and adapting to a changing environment. The hero of the story is Jamie Frazer, the young, outcast of the big family clan who has his own demons to fight. It takes time before they find each other, but when they do, there is nothing else. A love that conquers time.

The TV-series made by Starz has been no disappointment for the Outlander fans. It is beautifully and truthfully adapted by Ron Moore and his team. Everything is so perfectly made; the script, the directing, the actors and above all, the main character; the Scottish landscape! What is there not to love.

Ever since reading the book and watching the TV-series, I wanted to go to Scotland to visit the area where Claire and Jamie made their life. Well, it is still on the planning stage, but I will get there one day. In the meantime,  below a map of the area and the places where Claire and Jamie went. Mind you, not all the places of Diana Gabaldon’s map from her ’The Outlandish Companion’ exist in the real world. I have no doubt though, that this area of Scotland is absolutely beautiful! And if you love the books you will find your favourite places here.

The Content Reader
Here is the map I photographed from 'The Outlandish Companion'
by Diana Gabaldon
Lessons learned

What stays with me in this story is that it is told in a way that makes it feel real.  I am not normally that fascinated by time travelling, but here is a story that makes the best use of it from all various angles. Since the book is written in first person, singular, we are with Claire all the time. We hear her thoughts, her fears, her angers, her sorrows, her confusion and her feelings of love. Claire sticks out from other people, but they don’t know why. We can feel with her, all her emotions when she is so suddenly moved into a world she is not used to. It is interesting to follow how she manages to survive her ordeal by keeping a cool head and a sensible mind.

What can we learn from such a story? I think mainly that in those days people lived by the day much more than we do now. It was a fight just to get food on the table, to survive each day. There were famine, deceases, violence and nature that you had to face every day. Today many of us (but not all) have a much easier life. Somehow this does not always make us happier. I think we can learn more to appreciate what we have every day and make the most of it.

The adventure trails we do today are totally different from the real life people faced in the past. We have plans to follow, accessible transportation, mobile coverage in case something happens, photographs to show our experiences, proper clothes to protect us from the whims of nature, proper tents to cover us during the nights. Totally different from the facts of life for people in the past. We should be happy though that we still have so much nature to enjoy and take care of it for future generations.

Diana Gabaldon is on her ninth book in the Outlander series. It takes Claire and Jamie through various adventures in different countries and continents. Here I just covered, very summarily, the first book. I am on book number eight. I presume I don’t have to tell you that I am a fan of both the books and the TV-series. They are addictive! And if I get to follow in their tracks…I am happy.

The Content Reader
One of my own humble adventures on Mallorca

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