I’ve just finished reading “A Season In Heaven,” by David Tomory, a brilliant book about the Hippy Trail and Counter-Cultural movement, focusing on the period between 1965 and 1973. It takes the form of interviews with 13 “Freaks” of a variety of nationalities, who travelled overland from Europe to India before the air travel industry took off. It is organised into the 4 seasons and where people will be on the trail at those times of year, from the start of the trail in Istanbul, through Iran and Afghanistan, then onto Pakistan and the vast mystery of the Indian sub-continent.
What works so well is that, rather than being written by a narrator re-treading the trail or using written source, we learn about each place through the eyes and memories of the people who were there. This makes each place more vivid in its telling, as it’s told in the first person. The curator of these stories, David Tomory, interviewed each person individually and focuses on their reasons for their journey: what they hoped to find and discover on the Road and what they actually experienced. The stories are all the more poignant and resonant for how they are gradually revealed as the book progresses, with recurring themes of spirituality, frustration, illness and enlightenment. Tomory threads these stories together with contextual comments, his own experiences of his time on the Road, as well as his reflections and re-visits years later.
We get incredibly honest insights into people on the trail: we encounter the genuine confusion and angst of people on the trail, as well as the incredible experiences and revelations that came from this unique journey. It’s a great inspiration for the modern traveller, with a certain sadness, as you know that trail can never be done in the same way again. Tomory’s methodology and curation is sympathetic, but effective and brings to life a unique era.