the way home

The Way Home by Mark Boyle, read by Gerard Doyle

From Audible:

It was 11:00 pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever.

No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio, or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. 

The Way Home is a modern-day Walden – an honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life lived in nature without modern technology. Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Man, explores the hard-won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the stream, foraging, and fishing. 

What he finds is an elemental life, one governed by the rhythms of the sun and seasons, where life and death dance in a primal landscape of blood, wood, muck, water, and fire – much the same life we have lived for most of our time on earth. Revisiting it brings a deep insight into what it means to be human at a time when the boundaries between man and machine are blurring.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I find it hard to explain why I enjoyed this so much. It’s far from exciting and the story jumps around a lot, not just within the author’s own life, but also between his development of the smallholding and the islanders of the Blaskett Isles. I think my enjoyment stems from the openness of the author. He is very aware of his faults but also proud of his achievements. He doesn’t try to glorify his struggle without modern technologies but neither does he romanticise his new life.

He also openly acknowledges his struggle to live his new life without technology but also exist in the modern world. At times he must make compromises in order to see his parents and to help his neighbours. He’s also starting from scratch so in order to become established he needs to use the proceeds or results of modern technology.

The reader in this case brings a lot to the experience. I believe I enjoyed this more as an audiobook than I would have as a regular book. Once I became used to his pronunciation and tone, his voice added to the story making it a richer and more enjoyable experience.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

6 thoughts on “the way home

  1. threewheelsonmywaggon

    Do we not all carry genes from our distant ancestors all the way back to the hunter-gatherers. how enjoyable was it to go camping, where you learned all those new skills of survival, or go (as I did) go off for weeks into the wilds of Scotland, hill walking, much as my ancestors would have done since time immemorial. we are all Waldens and Mark Boyals at heart, we all wish to live the simple life but this in 2021 so we do it by reading books about people who have tried. it is just the gipsy in our soul. I read a lot of travel books, and the best ones are written by non-writers that tell the story not from factual research but through just doing it and getting it wrong some of the times. Try “To build a fire”, I can remember the author but it is about a young man who goes to live off the land in Canada at the turn of the century – an old trapper tell him when you can spit in the air and your spital freezes before it returned to earth – light a fire, the temperature is below 50 degrees.

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  2. unironedman

    Loved that book and have loaned it to a friend. Of course, it has its detractors, but he never claimed to be trying to save either himself or the planet, per se. His relationship breakdown I felt could have been explored a lot more, but that was the author’s choice and to be respected. Interesting that he ate meat despite being, as a recall, a vegan at the outset. Must try his other book about living without money.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. idlecyclist Post author

      He seemed to be in a lot of pain after the breakup so I’d say that’s why he didn’t elaborate much. It did seem very sudden though so there must have been more to it. He was vegan at the start. I found his whole enlightenment about veganism, urban organic shops and self sustainability very interesting and admired his ability to reshape his thinking on a practical basis. He didn’t seem to enjoy killing fish or eating meat but seen it as a practical necessity. The other book is on my list too 🙂

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      1. unironedman

        Undoubtedly in a lot of pain. I just felt a little voyeuristic; if this was a film, I would have been turning to my wife after 10 minutes and saying “she’s outta’ there!” and indeed, she may have beaten me to it… In a funny sort of way, his journey feels like something that had to be done alone. Or at least, in order to be able to fully immerse himself in the year as an emotional journey rather than some sort of living history experiment.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: the moneyless man | the idle cyclist

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