Rob Lilwall’s second book, Walking Home From Mongolia, enlists the assistance of Leon McCarron, an Irish adventure film maker, to chronicle a 5000 km epic journey by foot from Mongolian capital, UlaanBaator, to Lilwall’s home in Hong Kong. This travelogue (and accompanying TV series) is the sequel to Lilwall’s first book, Cycling Home from Siberia, a 48,000 km bicycle journey which I am yet to read.
Lilwall’s book is both entertaining, amusing and inspiring, but certainly not without it’s flaws – certainly no one would claim it to be a standout within the genre of travel literature. The book is well written, but utilitarian in it’s language; it’s obvious to see that Lilwall is an adventurer first and an author second. This is not entirely to the books detriment; if anything it perhaps adds a sense of authenticity to the narrative.
Walking Home From Mongolia’s largest flaw, yet simultaneously perhaps one of its most interesting aspects, is the in-depth discussion of the process of filming the accompanying TV show for production company, Tiberius Productions, which was essentially the financial justification for the adventure. This aspect serves as both a grand distraction to the protagonists, as the reader questions whether the journey would have perhaps been more enjoyable without the responsibility of filming every moment or carrying the requisite equipment for said filming, but also becomes one of the most interesting aspects of the journey. It provides a unique insight into the real-life experiences of a true “professional adventurer”, and the hurdles that must be overcome in order to make the hobby of long-term adventuring into a financially sensible career.
As someone intensely interested not only in long term travel and adventure, but also photography, film making, and writing, this potential distraction was in fact a uniquely interesting perspective within an often crowded travel narrative/travelogue genre of non-fiction writing.
Although Lilwall’s literary skills are far from top-tier, the book certainly isn’t poorly written, and many moments of humour, often stemming from the ever-present challenge of communicating in a vastly foreign language, bring many a light-hearted moment to the book, making for an easy and enjoyable reading experience.
I would say in conclusion that not only did I find Walking Home from Mongolia easy and enjoyable to devour, but also inspiring and motivating, pushing me one step closer to step out on some serious long-term adventures.