Anyone who grew up reading - and avidly rereading - "Richard
Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels" knows the indelible imprint
his travel adventures leave on memory and imagination.
What Halliburton fan can forget that thick orange book, written
especially for young people? With 110 essays weaving together
threads of history, geography, and adventure, it served as a
literary magic carpet, whisking eager readers to the remotest
corners of the world.
Halliburton remains one of the 20th century's most beloved travel
writers. It was he who introduced several generations to such exotic
places as the Blue Grotto, Machu Picchu, and Udaipur. It was he who
planted the first seeds of wanderlust in many youthful readers,
feeding their dreams of someday visiting Pompeii, Mont St. Michel,
and Angkor Wat. And it was he who sent fans back to libraries and
bookstores in search of his other works as well.
For several decades Halliburton's books have been out of print.
Now, in this centennial year of his birth, there is good news. His
first book, "The Royal Road to Romance," is again available
(Travelers' Tales, $14.95). Written when he was only 25, it
chronicles his wanderings from Andorra to the Nile, from the Khyber
Pass to Mt. Fuji. Seven decades before "adventure travel" became an
$8 billion-a-year industry in the United States, with packaged
tours to suit every whim and budget, Halliburton was blazing his
own independent trails.
His insatiable desire to travel began in childhood. After
graduating from Princeton University, he rejected any thought of a
conventional career and took to the road. He crossed oceans on
freighters, pretending to be an experienced seaman. He scaled
mountains from Europe to Japan. He bicycled 128 miles in a single
day in France. He swam in a Venetian canal.
Whatever his itinerary, Halliburton said he reveled in the
"freedom to search in the farthermost corners of the earth for the
beautiful, the joyous and the romantic." He also delighted in
sharing his findings with others, writing books and giving lectures
to pay his way.
Halliburton traveled on a shoestring, propelled by equal parts of
curiosity, innocence, exuberance, and impulsiveness. He was the
consummate adventurer. No destination was too remote, no trek too
daunting. Again and again he heeded the "small voice" that
whispered, "Go ahead. Risk it."
And risk it he did.
It was still possible then to wander alone on a moonlit night
along the walls of Carcassonne. As he recalls in "Royal Road," "Not
a person was to be seen; not a light showed, nor a dog barked as I
climbed the path and walked beneath the massively fortified