Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback
by Robyn Davidson (1980)
Non-Fiction | Travel | Memoir
“Robyn Davidson’s opens the memoir of her perilous journey across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian desert to the sea with only four camels and a dog for company with the following words: “I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back.”
Enduring sweltering heat, fending off poisonous snakes and lecherous men, chasing her camels when they get skittish and nursing them when they are injured, Davidson emerges as an extraordinarily courageous heroine driven by a love of Australia’s landscape, an empathy for its indigenous people, and a willingness to cast away the trappings of her former identity. Tracks is the compelling, candid story of her odyssey of discovery and transformation.”
pooled ink Review:
I had also been vaguely bored with my life and its repetitions – the half-finished, half-hearted attempts at different jobs and various studies; had been sick of carrying around the self-indulgent negativity which was so much the malaise of my generation, my sex and my class.
So I had made a decision which carried with it things that I could not articulate at the time. I had made the choice instinctively, and only later had given it meaning. The trip had never been billed in my mind as an adventure in the sense of something to be proved. And it struck me then that the most difficult thing had been the decision to act, the rest had been merely tenacity – and the fears were paper tigers. One really could do anything one had decided to do whether it were changing a job, moving to a new place, divorcing a husband or whatever, one really could act to change and control one’s life; and the procedure, the process, was its own reward.
I stumbled across the movie adaptation of Davidson’s journey a few years back when it popped up on Netflix. I’d had an exhausting day at University and I couldn’t settle on anything I felt like watching but when I saw this title I decided to just give it a go. It turned out to be an incredible story full of inspiration, no matter how unintentional. I found an original copy of her story in a 1974 National Geographic magazine, which then led me to her full memoir that is this book.
Honestly reading about her life and experiences from the first page…it seems like an entirely different world (and not just because it takes place about 20 years before my birth). I found her brave, fierce, tenacious, good-hearted, intelligent, progressive, impressive, funny, and an all around champion for women. In her book she shares that she didn’t set out with this idea to enforce a radical change in her life or to make some sort of statement. It was simply an idea and the hardest part was to act on it rather than let it dissolve into “might have’s” and “what if’s” and as inspirational as I found her journey, the requirement of action remains my largest obstacle in pursuing almost any ideas that niggle my thoughts.
She might not have set out to make a statement that would cause the world to pause but she did, simply by being herself and taking a chance on pursuing an idea.
Reading and watching her story had me itching to explore the Australian outback but of course I doubt I ever will if only because I despise bright sunshine, snakes, bugs, and any weather above 72 degrees Fahrenheit (not to mention I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford the trip let alone the plane ticket). But even so this book made me long for an adventure of my own, not even one to proclaim to the world but a private one that might better acquaint me with myself and give me perhaps a brief reprieve from the demands of society. I’d love to grasp at the chance for adventure if only to meet myself.
I definitely don’t think I could’ve done this journey in a hundred years personally. To begin I’d never have gotten the nerve to take the train to Alice Springs let alone the dozens of other steps between decision and destination. However I am glad she decided to share her journey in this book because it was informative, humorous, exciting, tragic, victorious, and inspirational.
If you have any interest in Australia, journeys to unfamiliar places with trials and daunting challenges, or even just camels, then I suggest you pick up a copy of this book or hunt down the movie and experience it for yourself. Her writing is so personable I enjoyed reading it very much, and as someone who knows little about Australia I learned quite a lot! Your eyes will be opened to life in Australia in the 1970s, the racism, the sexism, the harshness of the outback, the tenacity it takes to pursue a non-conformist idea and follow a road not smoothed by expectation. It tells a tale distinct with its voice and setting but shares a deeper message that applies through the ages.
Meet Robyn Davidson!
Robyn Davidson was born on a cattle property in Queensland, Australia. She went to Sydney in the late sixties, then spent time studying in Brisbane before moving to Alice Springs, where the events of this book begin. Since then, she has traveled extensively, living in London, New York, and India. In the early 1990s, she migrated with and wrote about nomads in northwestern India. She is now based in Melbourne, but spends several months a year in the Indian Himalayas.