I would have probably ended up living in the American Southwest without reading 'Desert Solitaire' by Edward Abbey. I was already in love with the enormous otherworldly landscapes when I came across the book in a small independent bookstore in Moab, Utah. What Abbey encouraged was a much fuller immersion in these landscapes than I had considered. He taught me that despite rattlesnakes, scorpions, remoteness, lack of water, burning sun, and other hazards, there was really nothing to be afraid of. A few simple precautions were enough.
So I started my own solitary adventures in wild desert places, in the same spirit as Abbey's. For him, spending time in the wilderness, whether hiking, camping or floating down rivers, was a communion with nature, a fine adventure, and a way of exercising personal freedom from the oppressive forces of government and society. As a writer and a thinker, Abbey was sui generis: a born rebel who combined nature-writing with anarchist philosophy, and leavened its usual piety with a wicked sense of humor.
Richard Grant is a British author and journalist presenter based in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of five award-winning travel books about the US, Mexico and East Africa, and a longtime correspondent for the Daily Telegraph magazine.
His latest book is The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi.