My first published book was what was then called 'travel biography'. It was the description of a journey round China with a backpack in 1986, when China was just opening up to solo Western travellers. It was also the description of an inner journey: this is a book about personal discovery and reinvigoration.
I've not returned to the genre since, as I felt I'd said what I wanted to say about travelling in this book. I still feel that.
Journey to the Middle Kingdom
This is the story of a life-changing trip to China in the mid 1980s. I had spent my twenties enthusiastically running down various paths but not ending up that far down any of them. Disillusion was beginning to set in. Travelling shook me out of that. It was partially seeing the conditions under which many people have to live: a healthy antidote to self-pity. It was also about discovering a new ability to experience intensely, and the philosophical and personal insight that comes with such experience. Many young(ish) travellers have no doubt experienced the same: this is my version.
It's also a picture of China at a time before it became the economic powerhouse it is now. The streets were still full of bicycles. Most people outside Beijing (and many in it) still wore the Mao suit (or Sun Yat Sen suit as it should really be called). At least part of my journey was by steam. Mao and the Cultural Revolution still cast a long shadow - as reported by other travel writers who went there around this time. I felt this chill too, but also met young Chinese with energy and optimism.
"Vivid and lyrical." Robert O’Brien, Hampstead and Highgate Express
"Christopher West’s first book is a gem." Michael Wigan, The Scotsman
"A broad canvas, vividly illustrated by a man who travels with his eyes open and has the talent to put it all down in an absorbing manner."
Grant Dean, Yorkshire Post