Travel writing classics: Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

June 24, 2015

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle,
by Dervla Murphy (1965)

 

How many of the ambitions we have as ten year-olds do we actually end up achieving?

 

When the young Dervla Murphy received a bicycle and an atlas for her tenth birthday, and resolved to one day cycle from her home in County Waterford to the far-off land of India, it would presumably have appeared to those adults around her as no more likely to happen than such childhood dreams as wanting to becoe a prince or princess, travel to Mars or live on nothing but cake. 

 

And yet, twenty years later, she did precisely what she said she would do.

 

By 1963, a series of unfortunate events had left Murphy without anything to keep her at home, so she grabbed her bike Rozinante ("Roz" for short), popped a .25 revolver in her saddle bag and rode out across Europe in search of adventure and a passage to India.

 

What makes this book so readable, so inspiring, is the gentle, eager force of Murphy's personality which resounds in every sentence. She faces - and faces down - a great many situations where she is in actual physical danger and, for the most part, escapes unharmed. Throughout she is driven by her need to explore, to pass through countries, spend time with people, to experience ways of life altogether alien from her own with the general overal aim of getting somewhere specific... at some point. Full Tilt tells the story of Murphy's journey to India by bicycle but, like all the best travel writing, it's about a great deal more. 

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