This time around Bookaholicanonymous proudly presents to you a 'ladyventurer'… Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent …someone who has negotiated with baffled government ministers in Cameroon, Indonesia, Mongolia, Siberia and beyond to travel their lands; pulled small vehicles out of countless potholes, bogs and snowdrifts on her journeys; was charged by a baby elephant in Tanzania, and was rewarded for this-she won The Wilderness Award, rode 3000-miles around the Black Sea on a zebra print motorcycle and nearly froze to death whilst attempting to reach the Russian Arctic on an old Ural. Yes…her life is an endless adventure! Let’s get to know her a little better…
About Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: She is an English travel writer with a fondness for solo travel in remote, little explored regions. This love for travel dates back to a telephone call from her best friend Jo on a dark December night in 2005. ‘Do you want to drive a tuk tuk home from Bangkok with me?’ Six months later she ditched her job on ITV’s South Bank Show and the two of them were thundering across China’s Gobi desert in Ting Tong, their pink tuk tuk, heading in the general direction of England. So far she has written 3 books ‘Tuk Tuk to the Road: Two girls, three wheels, 12,500 miles’ ‘A Short Ride in the Jungle: the Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle’ and ‘Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains’.
You call yourself 'ladyventurer'...when did the adventure bug bite you? And when did you start travelling?
My adventure bug really dates back to a telephone call from my best friend Jo on a dark December night in 2005. ‘Do you want to drive a tuk tuk home from Bangkok with me?’ she said, without a hint of irony in her voice. Six months later I’d left my job as a TV researcher and the two of us were thundering across China’s Gobi desert in Ting Tong, our pink tuk tuk, heading in the general direction of England. 12,561 miles later we’d raised £50,000 for Mind, the mental health charity, set the Guinness World Record for the longest ever journey by auto-rickshaw, written Tuk Tuk to the Road and won Cosmopolitan magazine’s Fun Fearless Female Award.
What are the joys of travelling solo?
There’s something extraordinarily liberating about casting yourself into the unknown, alone, and seeing what happens. And the wilder and more remote, the better. In our normal lives we’re surrounded by familiar people, and convenience, and comfort - we rarely test ourselves, or work something challenging out without asking a friend or the internet. But when you’re alone, miles from help or the nearest telephone signal, you have to work things out for yourself and, in doing so, it’s remarkable what hidden talents you discover. Travelling alone is also far more immersive-without the distractions of others you whole-heartedly engage with your surroundings and the people you meet.
How many books have you written so far? Tell us a little about each.
I’ve written three books so far: Tuk Tuk to the Road, A Short Ride in the Jungle and Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains. The first one was about the tuk tuk trip; the second about my solo motorcycle journey down the remains of Indochina’s legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail and the third about Arunachal Pradesh.
How did you get to know about Arunachal Pradesh?
I heard about it from a well-travelled Bengali friend when I was making a documentary for the BBC in Delhi in 2013.
What will we discover about Arunachal Pradesh through your book 'Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains: a journey across Arunachal Pradesh-India's forgotten frontier'?
You will discover what a fascinating, diverse, remote, special, hospitable place it is! I absolutely adored the two months I spent there, and was incredibly touched by the kindness the people of Arunachal showed me – I really hope that comes through in the book.
What 'new' did you discover in this 'last Shangri La'(Arunachal Pradesh)?
For me, it was all new and exciting. I discovered how many different tribal cultures still thrive in the state and how much of the region is still amazingly unexplored. I found out the important role this part of India played in the Second World War, and how many crashed US plane still litter the region. I learned about tigers, and shamans, and reincarnated lamas – and so much more. Every day was an adventure, and every day I discovered more.
What was the duration of this adventurous journey?
I spent two months travelling across Arunachal Pradesh, covering around 2,000 miles by foot and motorbike. Starting in Namdapha National Park, in the south-eastern corner of the state, I worked my way across the different valleys, taking in almost every district from Changlang to Tawang. And what an incredible place it is!
What have been the highlights of this epic journey according to you?
There were so many, it’s hard to say. But the highlights definitely include my time at an Idu Mishmi festival in the Upper Dibang Valley, trekking to a remote Buddhist monastery near the Tibetan border, finding the crash site of an American Second World War plane, and riding over the snowbound 4,175 metre Sela Pass to Tawang. The people of Arunachal were a highlight too – everyone was so kind to me.
Suggest why should anyone undertake this journey in their lifetime?
Journeys like this teach you so much about yourself and the world. Not only do you learn how to cope on your own in unfamiliar surroundings, but you get to immerse yourself in very different cultures and find out that, however different we are, we’re all just humans. I find travelling alone in remote regions, far from home, an incredibly enriching, heart-warming experience. Everyone should try it.
What kind of preparations is required before undertaking such a journey?
A lot of research and preparation goes into a journey like this! On a practical level, you need to decide what equipment you need, how you’re going to travel and when and where you want to go. Then there’s the research into the peoples, places and history of the region you will be visiting. But you also need to make sure you’re mentally strong enough and physically in good shape – and for this I recommend meditation and yoga.
When is your next book out? And which part of the world is it based on?
There’s no new book on the horizon just yet, but I’m always on the hunt for new ideas and will no doubt hatch a plan soon. Meanwhile, I’m sating my wanderlust with running my new travel company, Edge Expeditions. Over the next twelve months we’ll be taking people motorcycling in Central Asia, Bolivia and Burma, walking in Palestine and hopefully returning to Arunachal Pradesh.
Bookaholicanonymous is totally inspired…and will take up a journey like her soon…as journeys open up a new perspective about oneself…
Keep up the adventurous journeys and keep telling them Antonia!
To find out more about Antonia see her website www.theitinerant.co.uk or follow her on Twitter and Instagram as @AntsBK.
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