Brandon Wilson is an award-winning author and photographer, explorer and pear walker.
He is author of other true travel adventure books including Along the Templar Trail and Dead Men Don’t Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa. His story about a year spent living in the Arctic, “Life When hell Freezes Over,” Appears in they Lived to Tell the Tale: True Stories of Adventure from the Legendary Explorer Club (The Lyons Press/Globe Pequot) His Spanish Pilgrimage photo essay appears in Naive and abroad; Spain: Limping 600 Miles Through History by Marcus Wilder, and his photos have won awards from National Geographic traveller and islands magazines.
When Not writing, he enjoys inspiring others to discover life’s possibilities through long-distance walking. A voracious explorer of nearly one hundred countries, he is an expert long-distance, light trekker. He blazed the 2620-mile Templar Trail from France to Jerusalem, and has walked many of the world’s major pilgrimage trails; the famed Camino de Santiago across Spain (Twice), the via de la Plata, and St. Olav’s Way across Norway.
He and his wife cheryls were the first Western couple to complete the 650-mile Buddhist pilgrim’s trail from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, and he was the first American to traverse the 1150-mile via Francigena trail from England to Rome.
Wilson,a member of the prestigious explorers Club, is a peace and human rights advocate.
The wind kicks up again. A vast, desolate swath of sand stretches for miles, days in any direction. We are insignificant: insects trudging across a desert. Meager possessions are slung across a patient horse's back. Once-strong bodies buckle under the pervasive wind. We bend double, choking on dust. Sand invades every pore. Pus seeps into stiff socks from sores pocking our feet. Hopelessness, undeniable hunger and unquenchable thirst fill us with a gnawing rage.
For hours or days hatred sustains us. Hatred of self. Each other. The inadequacy of our bodies. The forsaken land we vowed to cross, a ground that consumes our very souls.
Maybe we approached the journey all wrong from the very start, gulping in its challenge in one gigantic breath, like diving headfirst off a cliff into some mirrored pool of unknown depth. It was bound to be a great adventure, we argued, a chance to prove something to ourselves-especially to those who vowed it couldn't be done. But any Western sense of toughing things out, of muscling our way across a land as complex as utter darkness, soon fell by the wayside like exhausted matchsticks.
Survival has somehow become mysteriously linked with the uneasy idea of letting go. Perhaps it always has been. But leaps of faith have never given me much personal comfort. Still, this is Tibet, it's unsettling, yet reassuring.
When life is bleakest, magic appears, tenuous at first. It's a strange, exhilarating force, a peace. Obstacles vanish and hurdles disappear. We find water where there is none. Someone arrives out of nowhere offering shelter. Another shares his meager food. Another, his love.
At those moments we have a gnawing suspicion that there is something more to our thousand-kilometer trek, something more than just two weary travelers tracing an ancient pilgrim's path from Lhasa to Kathmandu across the Himalayas.
And that sense of greater purpose, more than any personal tenacity or courage, ultimately keeps us moving.
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