I am standing in New Jersey on the brink of a new year — on the brink of 2010, on the brink of the 100th year anniversary of the publication of Harry A. Franck’s first book, A Vagabond Journey Around the World: the namesake of VagabondJourney.com.
A mere 8 months into my travels I found myself wandering around a university library in central Connecticut. I had just attempted to take a non-matriculated semester of college, it didn’t work out so well. I reverted to just sitting around in the library poking into old books, finding what I could find.
While fondling around amongst the shelves in the travel section I got a little feeling that yanked my head down to the bottom rack. There, like a shining beacon of light at the end of some kind of tunnel vision vortex, the yellow print on the spine of an all black book jumped out to me: “A Vagabond Journey Around the World.”
I could not stop my hand from reaching out for it. I opened its cover. It was exactly what I was looking for.
The story began
“With all due respect to bank accounts,” I observed, “I believe a man with a bit of energy and good health could start without money and make a journey around the globe.”
Laughter assailed the suggestion; yet as time rolled on I found myself often musing over that hastily conceived notion . . .
. . . What would befall the man who set out to girdle the globe as the farmer’s boy sets out to seek his fortune in the neighboring city . . .”
I, too, wonder what would befall this man, and I also resolved to find out.
This book changed my life. It did not start my wanderings, but jump started them. This book showed me a map, it was a manual for adventure, a directional guide on how to travel the world, on how to work your way around the globe.
I took this book with me and read it like a text book. I took notes. A month later I found myself in Ecuador, out of the USA for the first time. The book was still in my hands. It did not find its way back to the stagnant library shelves.
It has now been ten years since I first read, A Vagabond Journey Around the World. For a good part of ten years I have traveled with a copy of this book in my backpack. I open it up in the empty moments of travel and read a random passage or two.
We did not eat our fill at the first stop. To have done so would have been to leave the keeper a pauper. When our hunger had been somewhat allayed, we rose to our feet.
‘I’m sorry to work this phony game on you, old girl,” said James, “but I know you couldn’t cash a check –“
“Namelay-voo?” cried the personage thus disrespectfully addressed, and the family smile broadened and spread to the family ears. We caught up the knapsack and walked rapidly away; for well we knew the agonized screams that would greet our perfidy an the menacing ob that would gather at our heels. Four steps we had taken, and still no outcry. We hurried on, not daring to look back. Suddenly a roar of laughter sounded behind us. I glanced over my shoulder. Not a man pursued us. The family still squatted on the bamboo floor of the booth, doubled up and shaking with mirth.” (p 402)
It is now the 100th year anniversary of A Vagabond Journey. Its author was the same age as I am now when it was published. I am sure that the success that came from this work helped set his course as a traveling writer. Perhaps this is what I, too, am looking for now: a new map, a new path through the woods, a new course.
I sent an email to Harry Franck’s grandson, Steve, a few months ago in Arizona. I asked if he would mind assisting me with writing a few pieces about his grandfather. He responded supportively. We exchanged emails for a couple of months, and talked over the telephone around a week ago. He referred me to his aunt Pat, one of Harry’s daughters. This morning, I am now in New Jersey preparing to go and meet her, to talk about her father, his travels, and the family that traveled with him on portions of his journeys.
Visit the Harry A Franck Homepage
Read more of the Vagabond Journey.com series on Harry Franck
Read along, buy a copy of A Vagabond Journey Around the World