REVIEW BY KRIS FANT
“I resign.” The two words that changed the trajectory of Michèle Harrison’s life forever, in her book All the Gear, No Idea.
Abandoning her career in finance and leaving behind a boyfriend, Michèle embarked on a year long journey around India on a Royal Enfield. “Obviously I’ve never ridden a motorbike, but they can’t be that different from mopeds, eh?” she said to her boyfriend at the time.
The reader joins Michèle as she learns to ride, and starts her journey as a novice rider. She leaves out no cringe worthy moments, entertaining the reader and bringing to mind our own newbie mistakes.
The book in general has a simple writing style, as the journal it was meant to be, but is punctuated by eloquent and insightful quotes like the following: “Once I was able to look beyond the rotten extremities of the lepers, beyond the tumours the size of tennis balls on men’s necks, beyond the fly-infested sores on children’s feet… and had the courage to look at their faces – at their eyes – so that I could see them as individuals rather than just grossly mutilated bodies, then they became less scary.” Or, more pleasantly “I ran up to the top of an ugly observation tower to watch the High Himalayas come out of the milky white sky. It remains one of the most moving sights I have ever seen. Each mountain emerged like a shy child actress being coaxed on stage by an anxious mother. Reluctantly they appeared on the stage, one by one, until the cast was complete and it filled not just the horizon but most of the sky too. And as the sun set, the peaks changed from a pale milky blue to a warm pink, and at last to a fiery orange.”
Michèle found herself mistaken for a man multiple times on her trip. “I’ve never liked labels, whether they be of nationality, race, class, religion or profession. They’re used to categorise people into neat little boxes. You become known as the label on the box, and everyone you meet has a preconception of what that label represents. However, it seems there’s one label I do identify with: that of woman. I’m not sure what it means in practice, but I do want people to treat me as female and not as a rather effeminate man.”
This book may not answer that question, but it certainly brings the reader to India with a novice rider who you get to see grow as she conquers challenges and learns what it means, to her, to be independent.
Buy her book
PHOTO: RTW PAUL