East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The direction in which we are looking


I am also reading a lot – because when I take a pause from my writing, translating or editing, a good book is still the best system to relieve my various pains and my screaming monkey mind. Get captured by a good book, completely wrapped in the narrative.
It works.


And right now I am going through a stack of (used1) books by Tristan Gooley, that I think are extremely on-topic here on Karavansara – because we are talking about non-fiction, and about traveling in the old days. Or traveling today, but the old way.
Adventure, but the real one.

xTheNaturalNavigator.jpg.pagespeed.ic.dyz8Y10IXCTristan Gooley – boy, do I envy the guy!
He’s basically making aliving with something I tried to start here in the hills of Astigianistan for about seven years now, always ending up with blank stares and meaningless gibberish from local administrators, educators and assorted potentates.
No game.

Tristan Gooley started in 2010, with a book called The Natural Navigator, and from there he started publishing books and holding courses, lectures, the works.
What Gooley does is keep alive as a practical activity the ancient art of finding your way in the wilderness by spotting clues and basically knowing what nature is all about.

cluesAncient traditions, mythology, storytelling, the lore of the land, and then botanics, zoology, geology and geomorphology, meteorology, astronomy. Plus a good solid dose of common sense and a lot of first-hand experiences.
All this, in books that explain how to find your way, how to know in what direction you are looking.
Practical stuff, rooted in solid knowledge, the basic idea being, if you kep your eyes open (and your senses alert) and you know how things work in nature, you will always find your way home. Or wherever you are going.
Gooley’s books are a delight. His writing style is very down-to-earth and direct, which makes reading his pages a little like sitting in a pub with a well-traveled, field-savvy old friend. One that is not too expansive or intimate, but that sure as hell knows his stuff.

The reason I pitch something like what Gooley does every year is, I think this is the best way to teach the kids a lot about the world they live in.
A hike in the fields turns into the best way to talk about science, literature and maths – in a fun, unusual, intriguing way. And most of all, it shows that school subjects are not just stuff you learn to pass a test and then you forget. They overlap, and integrate, and describe reality. And they have practical uses. They have meaning.
It’s the meaning, the practical side, and the interconnectednes, that our schol too often fails to stress.


As I said, I’ve been so far unable to convince my counterparts.
Or, if I convince them, they’d love for me to do it for free, and in the kids’ spare time, so that I would not interfere with regular classes.
Most just take notes, and try and do it themselves, and fail. So they tell everybody that it’s a bad idea anyway.

That’s why I envy Tristan Gooley.
Because what he’s doing, and successfully, I can’t do no matter what.
But I also love his books, that speak of ancient travelers and the way they looked at the land, at the sky.
Great fun, great information to make my hikes much more interesting, and one never knows when some of this information will be useful in a story.
And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to set up a small course like the one I have in mind, for the kids to learn to look again with wonder and savvy at the fields and the woodlands.

Good books, worth checking out.


  1. yes, I’m cheap. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “The direction in which we are looking

  1. This intrigues me. I’ll have to track these books down.


    • I think you’ll find it much to your tastes. Gooley’s first book, “The Natural Navigator” has been published in the US too, in a “localized” version that uses American examples. Also, check out the guy’s website I linked above.


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