Touching the World is the extraordinary story of Cathy Birchall, a blind woman, who set off with her companion Bernard Smith, to become the first blind person ever to circle the world on a motorbike, an 18 year old BMW R100. What transpired has become an inspirational worldwide story that challenges people to question their own self-imposed boundaries. From desolate and dangerous mountain roads, difficult border crossings and numerous mechanical breakdowns, to climbing Wayna Picchu (first ever blind woman to do so) and riding an elephant mounted from the front (via its trunk!) - not to mention a poignant visit to the Centre for Blind Women in Delhi where they talked to women abandoned by their husbands, and an (inadvertent) overnight stay in a Kosovan brothel - this book has it all, travel, adventure, triumph over adversity, and through it comes a real sense of just what it means to be blind. Their heart-warming writing reflects a vivid account of the world, often hilarious and always positive.
©2012 Panther Publishing Ltd (P)2012 Panther Publishing Ltd
There are very few motorcycle travel stories by women and I found this one to be significantly different from the usual male perspective prose.
Quite apart from women experiencing people and places from an alternate viewpoint, Cathy has the added dimension of having the world described to her by Bernard - painting a picture in words.
I found story, told by the two voices, engaging and exceptionally astute.
"Don't pass this one up."
I will definitely listen to this one again. It was an experience listening to all of the great and bad things that happened during their journey around the world. In wanting to travel around the world myself by motorcycle, there are some things that I might not do or will do with a greater amount of understanding, (*SPOILER*) for instance riding a motorcycle on India's roads was a terrifying experience for Cathy and Bernard. I am forewarned for that area of the world now, but still may decide to experience it knowing the risk.
The way Cathy and Bernard wrote the story drew me in to it in a way that I have not experienced before. My only descriptor would be that it felt intimate and I was a part of the journey.
Sherry Baines does very well reading Cathy's narration and dialogue, she stumbles a bit on some of Cathy's humorous comments at the beginning, but it could be the dry timing of a Brit. Philip Bretherton did well. There was no instance where I was distracted by the narration, except for the slight stumble mentioned above. Overall, they did fantastic. Note also, the narrators have British accents, but there should be no problem understanding them because they spoke clearly and with appropriate speed.
A wonderful book and adventure. It will build up a fire in you to get started on your dreams if you are so inclined to motorcycle adventure.
A previous commenter stated that they felt like there was little input as to how Cathy's blindness affected their journey. I'm not sure what book he was listening to, but I felt like I understand blindness a lot more and what a blind person goes through in relation to us, sighted, folks. Also being an American I did not see that there were any jabs at our politics/politicians or way of life but simply observations and instanced of trying to remain diplomatic in whatever circumstances came their way.
Please give this book a go, you will likely enjoy it.
One odd note, the reading of the table of contents threw me. I've "read" many audio books and this was the first to read the table of contents to me.
"I feel like I've traveled the world!"
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the good, the bad, the ugly. The narrators were wonderful!
As a visually impaired woman myself, I found that Cathy's journey expressed many of the frustrations that I have felt.
Riding the elephants... or climbing the mountain.
The whole description of Cathy and Bernard climbing the mountain in Peru. I could almost feel the exhaustion, the euphoria, and everything along the way.
Cathy and bernard, of course... but the friends they met along the way were amazing!
I don't know what book John S. was reading... details about blindness were all over this book - the feelings, practicalities, even little annoyances. The one thing that made little sense to me was Cathy's insistence on Bernard guiding her through washrooms... perhaps it's a British thing, but I've never had a problem taking a cane or a guide dog into an unfamiliar washroom.
I generally did not find Cathy used her vision loss as a crutch, but simply made statements like "the white cane didn't speed things along" in the Iranian embassy as more of a contrast to how she was treated in other countries, but that might just be me.
This book is well worth your money or credit. Wonderful narration, fantastic descriptions, and a push to live a dream.
Normal people who do the extraordinary. They went around the world, and changed themselves. I enjoyed this book, 2 times, didn't want to miss anything.
Thanks for telling your story and inspiring me.
"an amazing, heartwarming and highly recommended story"
Brilliant story on so many levels. Thank-you for sharing this incredible tale of adventure, bikes, travel and life. As a fellow blind person as well as a biker, this book touched me on so many levels. I cried, I laughed, I loved and I lived. Awesome read and highly recommended. I hope that I one day get to shake Bernard's hand.
"Second thoughts, I had a few"
I don't want to take away from Cathy's achievements here, but I didn't get all that much of an impression of how her blindness made the trip that much more challenging? There's no mention of her specific contributions while Bernard did the driving that I caught. The blindness angle seemed more of a "hook" to sell an otherwise okay-but-not-great travel narrative; moreover, she seemed to get as much sympathy benefit (not that she outright solicited it) from her disability, as any obstacles she faced because of it.
I did find the author's anti-American attitude rather annoying, subtle jabs about foreign policy here and there at first, until they reached the States near the end of the book. At that point she pours on the disdain, as though she's been waiting to do so as some sort of final "reward", becoming completely bent out of shape that they can't obtain vehicle insurance as easily (or cheaply) as they'd just, sort of, assumed, and a similar situation about air freighting home the bike from the U. S. Perhaps ... maybe ... if they'd done a bit of research before leaving home those things wouldn't have come as a shock. The female narrator's cartoon-ish American accent didn't help much either.
Bottom line: I wouldn't consider returning the book, but I do regret having bought it.
I loved this story. A true love story. I'm inspired to create an adventure of my own.
"My Book of the Year"
This book was such an amazing journey. I love love love Cathy and Bernard. I will be recommending this to everyone I know!
Thank you Bernard and Cathy for sharing your truly amazing, courageous and awe inspiring travels. This listen has been a magical journey of highs and lows touching on very real emotions which I'm sure will reach most who read or listen to this brilliant travel journal of our time
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