Travel literature review: The Wayfinders

The Wayfinders by Wade Davis

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Reviewed by Danny Heap

Wade Davis, anthropologist and also the grandly named Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic, has dedicated his life to chronicling the lives and cultures of Aboriginal people across the world. In The Wayfinders, which is a labour of love as well as work of literature, he uses all that experience, knowledge and insight to make an impassioned plea to humanity not to lose the ‘old ways’ and also sets out to try and answer the question of what it means to be human.

Davis believes that our relentless drive for progression and development is pulling us further and further away from our connection to the land we inhabit. He believes we should celebrate our diversity rather than relentlessly marching onwards towards a form of cultural homogeneity. He takes us on a journey around the world, visiting native peoples in Polynesia, the Amazon, the Andes, Africa, Nepal and Borneo. These peoples all have skills in architecture, navigation, astronomy, agriculture that have long been in lost in the western world. Particularly striking are the Polynesians who can navigate across thousands of miles of ocean using only the stars, the waves and the wind to guide them. Davis argues that we must not lose these skills and that we need to reconnect and get back in tune with the natural world we inhabit, or else risk losing a vast bank of knowledge and understanding.

Davis writes beautifully, his passion and knowledge shining through at all times. This book is moving and though-provoking. Highly recommended.

Danny Heap works in the sales department of Lonely Planet’s London office.

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