Mary Jane Walker is a writer and blogger of travel stories that come with political and humorous content. She talks about people she has met along the way.
Mary Jane first experienced world travel in an unusual way, as part of the crew on a Chinese junk named La Dame de Canton, the first to be built in the old way in decades. La Dame sailed from Canton, now Guangzhou, to Paris. Just as in the old days of exploration by sail, the voyage took a couple of years to complete, with many stops along the way for fresh water and supplies, and, yes, for repairs as well.
After only six weeks on the boat, Mary Jane found herself in the US military base of Diego Garcia, in which the junk sought refuge with ripped sails and water contaminated by salt.
The voyage is the subject of the first chapter of Mary Jane’s first book, A Maverick Traveller.
Mary Jane was bitten by the travel bug after her junk voyage, and by a desire to explore the world. Acquiring a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political studies (and failing a diploma in journalism) along the way, Mary Jane also soon found herself a trained observer of local political, historical and cultural scenes.
Mary Jane likes to travel with no real plans and decides where to see next when she gets there. She likes to explore the culture and history of places that are off the beaten track as well as places that are well known, and to talk to the local people.
By the time she sat down to write her books, Mary Jane had travelled the world, from the Arctic Circle to work as a park ranger on an uninhabited island administered by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. She had accumulated suitcases fully of photo albums, loose photographs, correspondence, and souvenirs. She had also spent two years (mostly naked) onLa Dame de Canton;drunk hallucinogenic tea in the Amazon rainforest; and got so lost she ended up at Robin Hood’s hiding-place.
Among other adventures, Mary Jane has also walked to Mount Everest Base Camp and seen the work and life of Sherpas; respectfully observed the life of many churches, temples and mosques; traversed various parts of the pilgrimage trails of the Camino de Europa; explored the stunning landscapes of New Zealand; visited remote parts of the Arctic while pulled by a team of dogs; travelled around Cuba the hard way; examined the downfall and renewal of the American inner city, and interviewed protestors at Standing Rock. All the while, meeting amazing people along the way.
Her first book, A Maverick Traveller, is Mary Jane’s most autobiographical. A Maverick Traveller also introduces many of the journeys that Mary Jane describes in her later books.
As the book’s précis explains,
Whether it was eating dog unintentionally in Indonesia, meeting the rapper 50 Cent before he was famous at a back-packers, or kicking a US nuclear submarine in New Zealand, A Maverick Traveller is filled with the unique stories and experiences of Mary Jane Walker. Mary Jane has travelled to all corners of the globe: to large cities, rural villages and tiny unknown islands off the coast of continents.
From a working-class background in which she is the only member of the family with a university degree — with enough money to travel, but no great fortune — Mary Jane has generally done her travels the hard way: starting with the voyage of La Dame de Canton.
Mary Jane is a traveller in the true sense of the word, which means something like an explorer: a way of being which is perhaps becoming antiquated in today’s connected world.
The urge to explore is something that’s in us all. But in some people, it’s really in us.
All true travellers are mavericks, and explorers: people who rough it, often alone, to get to certain places before the tourists follow. And who rough it even more to get to other places where the tourists are never going to go.
More familiar tourism destinations are also visited by the traveller. In those places, the traveller distinguishes herself by writing about them from an angle which is unfamiliar.
A Maverick Traveller is the first in an expanding series of books, all with Maverick in their title:
To share Mary Jane’s travelling experiences from the comfort of home — or otherwise, to gain a richer perspective on destinations that you may be about to travel to yourself — read on!