Who is Dervla Murphy?

May 23, 2011 § 5 Comments

Before I answer that, my real question is where can I watch this documentary as soon as possible?! It’s been doing the film-fest rounds in Ireland since last year and I’m so jealous of all the lucky-suckers who could watch it this Friday 27th at the Dublin Writer’s Festival. Someone I know needs to go and let me live vicariously through them!

Moving on.

For those of you who don’t know – and I confess I didn’t until Ian’s mom clued me into her last year, thank you Sheila! – Dervla Murphy is one of the last great travel-writers and a first-rate lady-legend if you ask me. I say ‘last’ because she belongs to that lucky breed of wanderluster who roamed the globe before package holidays, cheap-flights and Arctic cruises. The planet was lonely – and yet to be a book-franchise – when Dervla hopped on her bike in 1963 and rode from Ireland to India. This was just the first of many brave and unusual adventures into the wild and unknown world.

Which is why I say lady-legend. I’ve travelled a lot and had amazing experiences in every corner of the world. And yet, I always felt that I wasn’t really traveling in the way I truly wanted to. I was too afraid. I thought those kinds of adventures were, sadly, only for boys. And I hate to say it but I still think that’s true. I’m okay with discomfort to some degree but Dervla survived attempted rape and robberies, a pack of wolves in Yugoslavia, threats by soldiers in Ethiopia. When she had a daughter, Rachel, as a single-mother in 1960s Ireland, she was undeterred and simply took her along on the back of the bike. I wish I could be so fearless but the remotest possibility of even the least of these things have kept me mostly on the beaten track.

Perhaps that’s all to change. India is calling me too and, though I certainly won’t be a woman alone, I’ll be taking the road less travelled for the very first time. First things first, though, is to watch this documentary and read some of these books, hoping even a scrap of her bravery wears off on me.

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