Mary Jane Walker is a writer of historically well-informed travel memoirs that come with an autobiographical flavour. She has been described as a younger, female Bill Bryson, though with her own unique voice.
Mary Jane first experienced world travel in an unusual way, as part of the crew on a Chinese junk named La Dame de Canton, the first to be built in the old way in decades. La Dame sailed from Canton, now Guangzhou, to Paris in the early 1980s. Just as in the old days of exploration by sail, the voyage took a couple of years to complete, with many stops along the way for fresh water and supplies, and, yes, for repairs as well.
This was the first time a Chinese junk had made such a voyage from East to West, a voyage which included blue-water sailing across the Indian Ocean. Firmly in the tradition of such hardy adventurers as Thor Heyerdahl and Tim Severin, the voyage of La Dame de Canton showed that the Chinese could have made a voyage of exploration to Europe in earlier times, perhaps passing Vasco da Gama as he went in the other direction. A Maverick Traveller, is the first book in Mary Jane’s Maverick series of 8 travel memoirs.
Mary Jane travels with no real plans and decides where to go and see next when she gets there. She likes to explore the culture and history of places that are off the beaten track as well as places that are well known, and to talk to the local people.
By the time she sat down to write her books, Mary Jane had travelled the world, from the Arctic Circle to work as a park ranger on an uninhabited island administered by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. She had accumulated suitcases fully of photo albums, loose photographs, correspondence, and souvenirs. She had also spent two years (mostly naked) on La Dame de Canton; drunk hallucinogenic tea in the Amazon rainforest; and got so lost she ended up at Robin Hood’s hiding-place.
Among other adventures, Mary Jane has also walked to Mount Everest Base Camp and seen the work and life of Sherpas; respectfully observed the life of many churches, temples and mosques; traversed various parts of the pilgrimage trails of the Camino de Europa; explored the stunning landscapes of New Zealand; visited remote parts of the Arctic while pulled by a team of dogs; travelled around Cuba the hard way; examined the downfall and renewal of the American inner city, and interviewed protestors at Standing Rock. All the while, meeting amazing people along the way.
Her first book, A Maverick Traveller, is Mary Jane’s most autobiographical. A Maverick Traveller also introduces many of the journeys that Mary Jane describes in her later books.
As the book’s précis explains,
Whether it was eating dog unintentionally in Indonesia, meeting the rapper 50 Cent before he was famous at a back-packers, or kicking a US nuclear submarine in New Zealand, A Maverick Traveller is filled with the unique stories and experiences of Mary Jane Walker. Mary Jane has travelled to all corners of the globe: to large cities, rural villages and tiny unknown islands off the coast of continents.
All true travellers are mavericks, and explorers: people who rough it, often alone, to get to certain places before the tourists follow. And who rough it even more to get to other places where the tourists are never going to go.
She joined the Junk Expedition because she fell in love with the Captain, Niels, then found herself naked on a Chinese Junk sailing under a state of emergency into Diego Garcia. They had run out of food, had been eating rice and drinking saltwater for ten days; soaked on the boat. The sails were ripped.
A Maverick Traveller is the first in an expanding series of books, all with Maverick in their title namely, A Maverick:
New Zealand Way
Inuit Way and the Vikings
Himalayan Way, and,
Mary Jane is self-published and turned down Literary Agents - she is a Maverick.
For more info, see Mary Jane’s website: