What a wonderful way to be transported around the world during these troubled times! ‘Signs of Life’ is so muchthan an ‘Itooksixyearsoffandcycledroundthe world’ travel book We accompany Doctor Stephen Fabes to spots we would never dream of visiting: a mobile medical clinic in Northern Kenya, a rubbish dump in Jakarta, the migrant jungle in Calais, to name a tiny fraction With Fabes, we tend to lepers, discover a mummified Tibetan lama, and suffer the horrors of dengue fever, poisonous spiders and bedbugs.We meet Fabes’ companions: from the cheery Liyan in China, who always comes up with ‘a plan and a proverb’, to a grumpy Pole on the TajikAfghan border, the quietly yogic Mike in Nepal, and dozensAnd there are myriad other encounters: playful stonewielding kids in Ethiopia, aggressive police officers in in Marin county, friendly students in Indonesia, teaoffering border soldiers in India…all described with affection.Fabes is impressively wellread and knowledgeable As he weaves in the historical and political context of the conflicttorn places he visits, his writing never becomes dry or inaccessible On the contrary, he is a master storyteller, and his writing is inventive and humorous.It is such a pleasure to travel through the pages with a companion who is funloving, brave (almost recklessly so!), honest, open, curious and nonjudgemental Yes, that’s a lot of adjectives, but he merits them all His is not simply a physical and geographical journey: it’s spiritual and reflective – a search for ‘a fresh sense of purpose’, a search for ‘connections between an Indonesian slum, a mobile clinic in an African desert, the cubicles of St Thomas’s AE.’, which he seems to find in ‘Ubuntu’, the Bantu notion of a ‘universal bond’: ‘I am what I am because of what we all are’ What a masterstroke it was for Fabes to give us the final chapter, which perfectly captures his ‘reverse culture shock’ on his return ‘…I’d been a time traveller of sorts – for years as a doctor in London I’d dreamt endlessly of the future On the road, I’d landed hard in the present Home again, I lolled helplessly in the past.’ But the lesson he shares through the book is one that he can continue to share throughout his life: the world would be a better place if we all learnt that ‘…payingattention to what we have in common might pave the way to a brighter future.’ Thank you, Stephen, for brightening my present! As a reader, when I approach adventure books, I always fear feeling like a useless couch potato admiring the incredible achievements of supernaturalfearlessbeings overcoming every obstacles in their adventurous perfect life When I finished Stephen Fabes’ book I felt nowhere near that It is a honest, witty and ironic account of his adventures (and disadventures), fears and excitements as he embarks in a bicicle world tour The book takes the reader on a trip across the globe exploring mankindthan countries It is a curiosity driven exploration of humanity, cultures and eventually of just human bodies and minds.A gripping and ironic reading, a must in your adventure books’ shelf. Everything about this book is impressive The journey undertaken by the author is mind blowing almost 54,000 miles on a bike over six years The book tells the story of the journey; from leaving London, St Thomas' hospital on a cold January day to celebrating a birthday in Syria with Tariq, (who he had just met) and countless other stories in many other countries This is not a book which documents the tourist hotspots in the countries visitied, it is absolutely a travel memoir and often reflects on a 'route less travelled' in remote and off the beaten track areas The reflections on visits to medical clinics along the way are fascinating and relevant given the authors profession I particularly enjoyed the accounts of the TB sanatorium and the jungle in Calais I read an ebook copy and wished it was a hard backed book crammed with maps and photos Those maps and photos are out there The author has a website called 'cyclingthe6' and I was happy to see that one of his photo albums is named 'photos for the book' The photos bring the stories to life They extend the 'sense of place' given by the writing There are so many pictures depicting the remoteness of the setting, the difficult terrain (either roughness or snow) as well as the good natured humanity and hospitality encountered along the way The writing is intelligent and engaging There are literary quotes and scientific references throughout In fact the references at the end are as impressive as anything else I also enjoyed the statistics at the end the number of different bike parts which had to be replaced along the way is quite fascinating, although I suppose not surprising This was a 5 star read for me from the first few pages, all the way to the end I recommend it to anyone who likes books by Bill Bryson, Robert McFarlane and or Levison Wood(!) Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Signs of Life by Stephen Fabes 2020This has been a joyous read! The whole idea of the bike ride excited me from the first I wondered whether Stephen Fabes could sustain my interest and write with feeling about the places and people he encountered? The answer is resoundingly positive Yes, he could! I was touched by the delicate and modest way in which he integrated his considerable medical knowledge into the substance of his account, and by the warmth of his relationships with many of the people he met along the way His descriptions of landscapes and travelling conditions were riveting, with his very survival in question, from time to time Quite honestly, the book was hard to put down I kept wanting to know “whatever comes next”? There is no gainsaying his courage and determination, but what stood out for me, and remains, is a feeling of real love for humanity and for our small, biodiverse world This is THE book for now and well worthy of 5 stars ***** I was engrossed for three whole days on my 4 day with this book As someone who has always enjoyed reading travel books(particularly Dervla Murphy, who I noticed Stephen also rated highly) I seriously loved this one with it’s addition of genuine medical interest I was amazed by his extraordinary courage and persistence in the face of some serious dangers His get back up and carry on in the face of Dengue fever after a mere 10 days of life threatening illness was inspiring.I felt he could have turned this extremely long cycling/reading journey into several books A littledepth of exploration of the relationships he made on the way would have made an even better read. Fascinating read Fabes style and confidence as a writer grow on you throughout this book His descriptions are often very observant and witty The detail with which he describes the places and history of the countries he visits is captivating I was often left wondering where and what the many characters in his book are doing now The book is analytical and reflective but not overly so, as his wonderfully timed humor brings a smile back to the readers face.I enjoyed his thoughts on healthcare, humanity and life on the road and I found myself pausing to think just as much as I was keen to read on Thanks for sharing your journey with us definitely one to be remembered I really enjoy travel writing, particularly a book that does something different, as well as one that complements my fiction reading Stephen Fabes’ ‘Signs Of Life’ does just this..Fabes is a Londonbased hospital doctor and in his late twenties, relatively new to his vocation, he decides to give it all up and cycle around the world No mean feat but it has been done before, in various ways Fabes sets out from London and the next six years of his life are spent exploring the world, from travelling the length of Africa, through to traversing the Mongolian steppes.It is clear that Fabes prepared for this venture, as far as possible and living frugally with little income, if any, would have been essential At the start, he says that ‘uncertainty is the heart and soul of any journey’ and this beautifully sums up his outlook Throughout, the anecdotes are interspersed with medical knowledge, of recollections from his hospital days Seemingly, you can take the man out of medicine but not medicine from the man and this isn’t surprising, given the intensity of training that doctors go through.Fabes has amazing experiences; he meets fascinating people, but has some scary times, too, from the treacherous borders of wartorn countries, to thetrivial camel spiders in his tent! Interestingly, this contains, towards the end, references to the current COVID19 pandemic Fabes comments that ‘Societies are judged on how they treat their most vulnerable’ and this, although a reference to a [now closeddown] TB sanitorium in Georgia, is extremely pertinent given the global tragedy that we are all experiencing in some way or another Fabes philosophises near the end, too, and I found it particularly thoughtprovoking when he writes that the world’s ‘most marginalised people’ have always been restricted In the western world, many think they are hard done by but for so many, it’s a way of life all of the time.This is a great book it’s a fantastic way of travelling from your arm chair (or bed, deckchair or any other place to rest) whilst learning about medicine, motivation and doing something different Fabes has a wonderful way with words and even though some similes (‘ my armpits raining like a Malaysian typhoon’) jar, one cannot fault this book It’s a huge accomplishment, as are the six years that Faves spent on his bicycle. They say that being a good doctor boils down to just four things:Shut up, listen, know something, care.The same could be said for life on the road, too.When Stephen Fabes left his job as a junior doctor and set out to cycle around the world, frontline medicine quickly faded from his mind Of pressing concern were the daily challenges of life as an unfit rider on an overloaded bike, helplessly in thrall to pastries.But leaving medicine behind is not as easy as it seems.As he roves continents, he finds people whose health has suffered through exile, stigma or circumstance, and others, whose lives have been saved through kindness and community After encountering a frozen body of a monk in the Himalayas, he is drawn ever to healthcare at the margins of the world, to crumbling sanitoriums and refugee camps, to city dumps and war torn hospital wards And as he learns the value of listening to lives not just solving diagnostic puzzles Stephen challenges us to see care for the sick as a duty born of our humanity, and our compassion. A thoroughly enjoyable and brilliant read I loved the descriptive writing and the pace of the story telling as the epic journey unfolds The brief snapshots of the people Stephen meets are captured so well making the individuals stand out like wonderful vignettes illustrating his passage across the continents He weaves in social commentary and small historical perspectives, facts and figures which all inform the places through which he was travelling making the readerknowledgeable or have fresh insights into the communities he engaged with along the way I love the asides on how it feels to be on the road and for large chunks of time alone And always there are little bursts of humour that freshen the landscape and bring a smile to the reader I think it’s a superb first book and I wish Stephen every success with it not only for the quality of the writing but also for the fantastic adventure which gave birth to the book. Oh did this book make me want to hop on my bike and get going! A fully qualified doctor decides he can't quite reconcile himself to 'normal' everyday life and so he sorts out his world into a couple of panniers, attaches them to his bike and leaves the front door of St Thomas' hospital in London to cycle around the world for six years.Stephen Fabes has a great turn of phrase and sees the absurd in many of the situations that he finds himself in First trip was from London to Cape Town waking the first morning out of London to find the landscape white with thick snow Then on to the extreme south of South America flying into Ushuaia and getting all the way to the dead boring Deadhorse Another continent andafter that Flying into Melbourne and cycling up the east coast before a small side trip to New Caledonia before heading north west across Bali onto Indonesia and eventually making it to Mumbai via Myanmar and Assam and Nepal Still not content he wings off to Hong Hong and slowly, windingly, makes his way inches his way back to Europe and home What a trip What stamina What courage He is worthy of our respect he has mine already.