At the beginning of Vagabond Dreams, author Ryan Murdock doesn’t seem to conform to the typical backpacker image, which itself embodies non-conformism.

Yet throughout the book he demonstrates that travellers are not born but created; crafted by the road through chaos, tribulation, adventure, and the choices you make whilst out yonder.

At the age of 28, Murdock is an underwhelmed anthropology buff and a skilled martial artist who finds himself professionally uninspired and recently single. Disenchanted with an enclosed and consumerist lifestyle in small-town Ontario, he seizes the opportunity to backpack Central America—traipsing to jungle villages in the Darién Gap and clandestine beaches on the Mosquito Coast, seeking the tangible history he encountered in textbooks, and questing for an exultation of the spirit.

Travel occurs as much within your head as it does beneath your feet, and great travel literature captures these reflections.

Some wanderlusts’ musings waft whimsically like jasmine-scented zephyrs. Not Murdock’s. While Vagabond Dreams isn’t without its poetry, his ruminations slice with a deftness that catches the reader unaware and renders her stunned and uncomfortable (perhaps it’s his martial arts training).

vagabond dreams

Ryan Murdock in Panama’s Darien jungle.

“Pavlovian advertisers condition desire; one subtle push of our subliminal buttons and we work ourselves ragged for the next stupid must-have gadget. The mobile phone ensures that no matter where we are we’ll be interrupted by someone’s mental garbage…. Life flashes by in pixel-flicker, until we open our eyes on our deathbed and wonder where it all went.”

His no-holds-barred approach illuminates not only the pull of travel—the romantic destinations whose magnetism is sensed even by homebodies—but also the push, the catalyst which launches nomads from the tepid comforts of Western life. He is forthcoming with the emotional and societal boxes he allowed himself to be placed within (prior to his trip), and challenges the reader to match his honesty.

Although the exotic settings and exciting tales make for a compelling read, these sugarless questions are why Vagabond Dreams deserves a spot on your bookshelf. But beware: your answers may propel you into a life unexpected.

Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America by Ryan Murdock is published by Polyphemus Ltd. and is easily available on Amazon. To purchase a copy and for more info on his other books, go to ryanmurdock.com

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