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My Life as an Explorer

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  281 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Over the course of three decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sven Hedin traveled the ancient Silk Road, discovered long-lost cities, mapped previously uncharted rivers, and saw more of the roof of the world than any European before him. Written in the exuberant, enthusiastic style of Richard Halliburton's The Royal Road to Romance, this epic memoir captures ...more
Paperback, 500 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by National Geographic (first published 1925)
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Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Life as an Explorer
Sven Hedin (1865-1956)

Sven Hedin was a Swedish gentleman traveller and author of several books based on his logbooks and drawings from his numerous expeditions across Central Asia.

He travelled in the years from the 1880s to early 1900, starting from Stockholm via Russia, crossing the entire continent to China, India, Nepal, and Tibet and back again several times.

Mostly on horseback, but also on camel or mules, or even yacks, then again on the water with self-made barges o
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I think you'd need gallons of testosterone to be willing to endure such extreme discomfort just for bragging rights. "First European to set foot on this blank spot on the map." I admire Hedin's skills as a linguist, record-keeper, and collector of data.

I was not aware of how many hundreds of beasts of burden and other animals had to suffer and die in the service of these expeditions. Camels, horses, mules, sheep, and dogs endured starvation, extreme heat, severe dehydration, subzero temperature
Chris Bubb
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, memoirs
This was another "Book Lust" recommendation. The description sounded interesting and inviting; I thought it would be a thrilling and engrossing book that I'd blow right through in a couple of days.

Two weeks later, here I am, feeling a bit misled by Nancy Pearl. There were good aspects to the book, don't get me wrong. The descriptions were often brilliant. In particular, I'll remember his account of the walled-in monk in Tibet for a long time. It was a great travelogue, and really made me want to
Having read this book for the third time, in preparation for a return to Central Asia this autumn, I am struck this time by the wanton loss of life incurred in traversing all those snowy passes and sterile deserts and have to wonder if it was worth it. Hedin's reply would have been "Absolutely!" Here was a man motivated by filling in those "white spaces" on maps and in being "the first white man to... [cross those mountains, record that lake's depths, uncover those 2,000-year-old tombs]". When y ...more
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a recollection of memories from Hedin's early journeys and expeditions across the Middle East and the Asian continent.
On the first few chapters, Hedin explains how he became a geographer and felt somewhat in love with the vast Asian continent. Such feeling developed an everlasting desire to explore what was, in his days, an unknown land to Europeans. A land that needed to be surveyed and mapped thoroughly.
After Hedin makes it clear on what it is driving him to travel back and forth
It's almost hard to believe that one man actually did all the things described in this account. He discovered the source of the Indus and Brahmaputra Rivers, as well as ancient cities in the Taklamakan desert, mapped unexplored regions of Tibet, criss-crossed Tibet, India, Chinese Turkestan (Xinjiang), Russian Turkestan, Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus, Russia, China, and nearly died several times in the process. He was also a pupil of Ferdinand Von Richtofen and wrote more than 50 books on his explora ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting read, hearkening back to the times of the "white space on the map."

It's not fair, perhaps, to judge one's actions using values that are 100 years removed from events, but I was shocked by the callousness Hedin showed towards the pack animals. He purchased hundreds over the course of his adventures, knowing he was leading them to certain death, despite the affection he held for some of them. I suppose this is the price of being successful in that period of time, but I did struggle
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Sven Hedin
Recommended to joyce by: personal research
Shelves: history
This book gives a clear picture of how driven Sven Hedin was. Not necessarily in a bad way, but VERY driven. From his accounts (and many of the contemporaries who met Hedin) people are attracted to him and this makes his encounters interesting. I like the descriptions of his "puppies" and appreciate from his narrative that he is compassionate toward both people and animals. (perhaps more toward animals?) Anyway, not the Hedin book that I would pick to read first, but once you're on a roll w/Sven ...more
Jul 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I had a love-hate relationship with Hedin's book detailing some of his travels in Asia, including many places where he was the first white man to set foot in. Especially at the beginning of the book, I found his narrative to be somewhat dry as it was more descriptive of the landscape than entertaining story. However, I really enjoyed the stories of the people he encountered and his survival stories about some epic adventures (particularly his first desert foray.) It took me a long time to wade t ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
On the one hand Hedin saw things and did things that nobody alive today could experience, even those modern men and women that have traced his exact footsteps. He visited Central Asia long before Communist Russia and China took control of that part of the world and forever changed the people and places found there. His depictions of travel in a waterless desert and of a Buddhist monk who willingly shuts himself off from all human contact were captivating. Even though English was not his first la ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
For starters, this is probably unlike anything you've ever read before. Like most trip accounts, the story is more fantastic than the narrative. But this story is bigger and more unbelievable than any other. It's such a large adventure (or series of adventures) that the narrative actually seems hurried in a lot of spots.

People died and a lot of animals died in the making of this, and there was a worldview expressed that we wouldn't really tolerate today. But, the guy was a tireless explorer and
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, travel
I would have liked this (extremely long) book a whole lot more if just once that man had realized you can't take an animal adapted to life in a desert and expect it to acclimate to working at 14,000 feet (in Tibet) in December. So many many unnecessary deaths overshadowed his not inconsiderable accomplishments.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well worth reading, although I wish the map had been better
Lothar Seifert
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sven Hedin war ein genialer Entdecker, der oft sein eigenes und das Leben seiner Reisebegleiter aufs Spiel setzte. Er hat sehr viele Bücher veröffentlicht, musste er doch mit den Einnahmen seine Reisen finanzieren. Er hat ein faszinierendes Leben geführt und wer möchte nicht gern auf seinen Pfaden wandern.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, asia
Hedin was not only an intrepid explorer, he could write a clear and entertaining narrative. This book covers four different expeditions in the middle east and asia, but focuses primarily on what is now western China and Tibet. His mission was to map unknown territory and go where no European had gone before. Later, archeologists plundered in his footsteps. While the book has illustrations and a few maps, I would have loved more maps. I could not figure out where he was in reference to my atlas a ...more
Harry Cunningham
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: exploration
One of my favourite exploration books of all time. As well as the incredible journeys through the inhospitable deserts of Asai surviving against mother nature there is place in human history. Although a relatively modern traveller he seemed to have linked the modern and the old world. Travelling in progress with the Shah of Persia, being one of the first westerners to enter Tibet and mapping great areas of Asia. His links with Nazi Germany has meant that he was all but forgotten after the war. H ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for anyone that finds explorers interesting. One of the interesting facts is how good of writer Sven was and is able to tell a compelling story. Yes he made some stupid decisions in his life but its a great read and tells of time that no longer exists.
Michael Gruskin
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those explorer books that you wouldn't believe as fiction because it is so fantastic. Written by the explorer himself you have constant hints about how he made great friends without sharing languages and missed being killed in so many ways. A fun way to spend your winter nights.
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-it, travel
nederlanse versie
Mar 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at a half price books. It is one of the coolest things I have ever read.
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love first hand accounts. Dripping with suspense,frightening exploration and amazing history.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Diva by: Paul.speilzebub
interest builds subtly, but firmly. one of my favourite authors/Explorers. thank you some one for giving this.
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Good armchair travel for the kid-bound.
Jason Norsworthy
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Dec 15, 2013
rated it liked it
Dec 27, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Jul 20, 2010
rated it really liked it
Jan 28, 2016
rated it it was amazing
May 22, 2016
Steve DeViney
rated it it was amazing
Mar 12, 2016
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Sven Hedin was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, travel writer, and illustrator of his own works. During four expeditions to Central Asia, he discovered the Transhimalaya (once named the Hedin Range in his honor) and the sources of the Brahmaputra, Indus and Sutlej Rivers, Lake Lop Nur, and the remains of cities, grave sites and the Great Wall of China in the deserts of th ...more
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“I was swept away by the irresistible desiderium incognitti which breaks down all obstacles and refuses to recognise the impossible” 7 likes
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