Whether in an airplane seat or an armchair I like to read about countries of the world. My job has given me the privilege of visiting many but there are others I seem to know almost equally well, by courtesy of my books.
Like many others, I spend long day-time hours in front of a computer screen and get much of my daily dose of information by that route, but still there’s nothing quite like a book. It may be a mass market paperback or a leather-bound antiquity, but for me print on paper is something special. It takes me out of myself to other places in the world. Instantly I’m transported, and without the hassle of the airport Borcay hotels.
Great travel writers have brought me into contact with the terrain and have introduced me to the people of towns and villages away from both traffic fumes in the streets and glass cages high in the concrete towers of capital cities. But far more than travel books have played important roles. Economists have introduced me to the challenges faced by many countries to survive in an intensely competitive (and sometimes grotesquely unfair) world. Novelists have based their plots in fascinating places and painted the background to their action. Historians have taught me how events and experiences of the past have shaped the present. Biographers have shown me the lives of outstanding men and women, and their impact for good or ill on their countries and the wider world. With or without illustrations their words have conjured up sights, sounds and scents.
Travelers, economists, novelists, historians, biographers; other specialist writers could be added: geographers, botanists, conservationists, missionaries, sportsmen, politicians, explorers, journalists; the list rolls on. Any one specialism by itself would have created partial and possibly biased perceptions. Together, however, each in his or her own way has contributed to a diverse, interdisciplinary flow of information, ideas and, I hope eventually, understanding of areas and peoples of the world very different from my own and which I have never actually seen with my eyes. I am profoundly grateful.
David Murray has been an adviser on managerial and ethical issues to companies, governments and voluntary agencies for almost thirty years, and as a speaker has addressed appreciative audiences on every continent except Antarctica.
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