Around the World in 80 Years by Don Wiles – book review

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by Edith Cody-Rice 

  Almonte resident and Carleton University Professor Emeritus Don Wiles has written a slender tome of what historians call “belles lettres”, a personal memoir of  his travelling adventures. As he says in the introduction, given that he began to travel at the age of 28, Around the World in 52 Years is probably more accurate, although not so catchy a title.

In the spirit that his family and friends have come to know, Don Wiles travelled the world with a sense of adventure and a “why not” or “let’s give it a try”  philosophy. Never a couple to enjoy packaged tours, Don and his wife Billy ventured alone or with a few friends to such diverse destinations as Norway, Jugoslavia, Albania, Romania,Kashmir, Panama,South Africa and Botswana. He recounts just one or two adventures per location, but where others might think – when invited down an alley, alone, with American cash, or on a long drive into a remote location –  of kidnapping, ransoms, muggings and murder, Don approached these propositions with a “what’s the worst that could happen” attitude. As a result, he lived to tell about some fascinating incidents.

Much of Dr. Wiles travelling was loosely connected to his work as a scientist and as a result, he met individuals tourists would not encounter. He recounts his time working in Romania in 1965, the first western scientist to do so, and a sumptuous banquet offered by the lady scientist head of section, where conversation was conducted in 5 languages.

As Dr Wiles points out, the target audience for this book is his family, so that they may better understand their parents/grandparents, but the book is availalble to others. It is a homespun affair, with a few typos still in the text, but a rather charming and quick read, told in a straightforward manner with a splash of humour.

Around the World in 80 Years is available through Mill Street Books in Almonte.