Travel and History

I have always loved being physically active, outdoors and in wild places, and exploring the past and how it relates to and explains the world that we experience now.

Combining these interests with cycling and hiking offers endless opportunities, and intimate ways of seeing nature, landscape and culture.

Among the most rewarding of these travels to date have been adventures in France, and through the mountain ranges of the Alps and Pyrenees, which have led me to the discovery of vast tracts of European history, from the middle ages to the 20th Century.

For example, cycling the Route des Grandes Alpes from Geneva to Nice over the high mountain passes with my son Tom – a much more accomplished cyclist than I am, by the way – opened our eyes to the history of the Kingdom of Savoy and the ‘Risorgimento’, the birth of the Italian nation.

This led to my finding a remarkable book, ‘Vanished Kingdoms; the history of half-forgotten Europe’ by Norman Davies

The road along the summit of the Chemin des Dames, close to the line of the Western Front and the scene of the disastrous Nivelle offensive of 1917

This book is a wonderful tour of lost kingdoms on our doorstep, as it were. It brought home to me how much we have forgotten about our collective past, yet how much this history can still tell us about the world we live in.

Another of my recent explorations of history, centred around a 1500 km bike tour along the Western Front of WW1 from the Belgian Coast to the Swiss border, has been the stimulus to discovering history that is perhaps even more relevant to modern Europe. Writing about this ride and the history the causes of the war including the power plays of the 19th Century Imperial ‘Great Powers’, is one of my main projects, described under Projects and Plans inĀ  Journeys – Exploring History.

Through my professional work, I have been privileged over the years to travel to many countries, including Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Jordan, India and Nepal.

This has provided unique opportunities to gain some understanding of the lives and cultures of people in the communities where we have been working. These trips have also allowed me to visit some of the world’s great historical sites, including Petra (Jordan), Tikal (Guatemala) and Angkor (Cambodia).

You can find some of my photos of these wonderful places in my Galleries.

Statues lining the bridge outside the south gate of Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Volcan Santa Agita close to the city of Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala

As my professional work moves more into supporting implementation of access to clean household energy, as described in ‘About my Environment and Health interests‘, I plan to explore progress in a number of countries. This will involve travelling to rural and more remote areas – not just the urban centres.