Winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize • Finalist for the 2019 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize • A CBC and Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 • Globe and Mail Bestseller • Indie Next Pick • New York Times Book Review Recommended Travel Read • NPR All Things Considered "Summer Reading List" • Winner of the Banff Mountain Book Award for Adventure Travel • Outside Magazine Book Club Pick • Amazon and Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Month
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As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved—that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From her small-town home in Ontario, it seemed as if Marco Polo, Magellan and their like had long ago mapped the whole earth. So she vowed to become a scientist and go to Mars.
Well along this path, Harris set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule. This trip was just a simulacrum of exploration, she thought, not the thing itself—a little adventure to pass the time until she could launch for outer space. But somewhere in between sneaking illegally across Tibet, studying the history of science and exploration at Oxford, and staring down a microscope for a doctorate at MIT, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks, leaving footprints on another planet: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. And where she'd felt that most intensely was on a bicycle, on a bygone trading route. So Harris quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Yule, this time determined to bike it from beginning to end.
Weaving adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of a world that, like the self and like the stars, can never be fully mapped.
Silver medals at elementary school science fairs are excellent predictors of a glorious future in getting lost. The more serious the photo, the wilder the journeys to come. Melissa “Mel” Yule and Kate in 1993.
Looking giddy and pale with sunscreen in Leh, India, here we are (Kate and Mel) after getting off our bikes for the very last time on the Silk Road, 2011.
Check out more photos from the Silk Road.
Here’s a video we threw together with iMovie featuring 10 months, 10 countries, & 10,000 km of our 2011 Silk Road bike ride...in roughly 10 minutes.
Here’s another Kate & Mel iMovie documentary special, this time about our first bike ride on the Silk Road in 2006. We never got around to making episodes 2 or 3.