WINNER OF THE RBC TAYLOR PRIZE "Every day on a bike trip is like the one before--but it is also completely different, or perhaps you are different, woken up in new ways by the mile."
As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved--that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and philosopher--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.
To pass the time before she could launch into outer space, Kate set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule, then settled down to study at Oxford and MIT. Eventually the truth dawned on her: an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. And Harris had soared most fully out of bounds right here on Earth, travelling a bygone trading route on her bicycle. So she quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Mel, this time determined to bike it from the beginning to end.
Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer before her, Kate Harris offers a travel narrative at once exuberant and meditative, wry and rapturous. 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.
Kate Harris has written for The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, and The Georgia Review, among other publications. A Rhodes scholar and Morehead-Cain scholar, she was named one of Canada's top modern-day explorers and has won several awards for her nonfiction writing. She lives off-grid in a log cabin in Atlin, British Columbia. Lands of Lost Borders is her first book.
WINNER OF THE 2019 RBC TAYLOR PRIZE
WINNER OF THE 2018 BANFF MOUNTAIN BOOK COMPETITION'S ADVENTURE TRAVEL AWARD
“Kate Harris packs more exuberant spirit, intrepid charm, wit, poetry and beauty into her every paragraph than most of us can manage in a lifetime. Whether writing of Pony Club or remotest Tibet, her longing for Mars or her days at Oxford, she braids heart, mind and spirit with a wide-awake vitality that inspires wonder. Lands of Lost Borders carried me up into a state of openness and excitement I haven’t felt for years. It’s a modern classic.” —Pico Iyer
“Kate Harris arrives among us like a meteor—a hurtling intelligence, inquiring into the nature of political borders and the meaning of crossing over. The honesty behind her self-doubt, her championing of simple human friendship, and her sheer determination to explore what she does not know, compel you to travel happily alongside her in Lands of Lost Borders.” —Barry Lopez
“This is a hymn to the pure love of travel: a brave and astonishing journey.” —Colin Thubron
"This fascinating book, about an unbridled desire for exploration, completely thrilled me. Getting to ride alongside Kate on her Silk Road journey is the literary adventure of a lifetime." —Leigh Stein, author of Land of Enchantment
“From her vantage point of a student of the history of science, explorer and adventurer, Kate Harris presents a rare and unique vision of world, and explores the nature of boundaries. Unable to realize her childhood dream of travelling to Mars, she decides to trace Marco Polo’s Silk Road by bicycle. Vivid descriptions of the places and people she meets inspire deep and eclectic reflections on the nature of the world, wilderness, and the struggle of humans to define and limit them. This is a book that changes how one thinks about the world and the human compulsion to define it.” —Jury Citation, RBC Taylor Prize
“Extraordinary. . . . Lands of Lost Borders is rich not only because of the adventures it recounts, but in the telling of them. It isn’t so much a travelogue as it is a contemplation of what pushes us out the door and how we change out there in the world before we return to our own little corner of it. This is not the type of book you want to motor through. Instead, it slows you down, so you can appreciate what you're experiencing—almost like a trip on a bicycle across an astonishing landscape. You find yourself wanting to linger, rereading passages built of sentences so beautiful they demand to be read out loud—even if no one else is in the room.” —The Globe and Mail
“A tale of beautiful contrasts: broken landscapes and incomparable mountain vistas, repugnant sights and smells and euphoric baklava hangovers, geographic neighbors at war and the moving hospitality of total strangers. . . . Exemplary travel writing: inspiring, moving, heartfelt, and often breathtaking.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A compelling, suspenseful, insightful and elegant travel memoir. The book moves seamlessly between the Silk Road adventure and backstory that led up to it. In every instance, the backstory is as compelling as the road. . . . This is one that will have you dreaming.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“To write a book that brilliantly captures the humour, the exhaustion, the cultural mosaic and the ever-shifting landscape of such an extensive journey is an equally monumental task. But, to write a book that not only colourfully expresses the wonders of new lands, different cultures and the alternately draining and exhilarating moments of pedalling day after day for six months with lyricism, genuine belly laughs, profound insights and a dazzling pallet of language—now that’s an accomplishment akin to travelling to Mars.” —Rocky Mountain Outlook