The Adventurer’s Handbook by Mick Conefrey

Travel Books & Movies — By on November 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

The Adventurer’s Handbook

by Mick Conefrey

Palgrave Macmillan, $12.00

RATING: 3 Stars


Mick Conefrey has culled some of the most ambitious expeditions from the 19th and 20th centuries, the “heroic age” of exploration, and packaged them into a How-To guide that’s as much a sociological survey, as it is guidebook. As a result, even arm-chair travelers can learn a thing of two from the history’s greatest explorers.


  • Conefrey captures a spirit of adventure that, if not exactly instructive, is at least inspiring. It’s like candy for the recession. One of the book’s first quotes, for example, reads:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant journey, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success – Advertisement placed by Ernest Shackleton in a London newspaper, August 1914. It is said that 5,000 people responded.

  • It’s packed with interesting trivia and amusing tales–how to survive an anaconda attack; the worst recorded cases of frostbite; men who thought it wise to take a printing press, a car and a full dining room table to the South Pole; why long sleeves are a good idea in the dessert and, perhaps more importantly, why nomadic tribes drink their camels’ vomit in the absence of clean water. It’s all fabulous party chit-chat and, if you ever do go on a 3-month trek through the Australian outback, helpful.
  • The longest and most intriguing section, “Getting Along,” applies to people who never will go on that trek. The nuances of teamwork and leadership, the sheer ego behind men and women trying to be the best, the interplay between explorers and natives–these tales, unfurled in the most dire circumstances, offer a compelling peek into mankind’s daily psyches, explaining why we act the way we do in, say, the work place. This motif elevates The Adventurer’s Handbook to a manuscript that both explorers and secretaries can appreciate.
  • Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jonah Hill (Superbad) are turning it into a movie. Perhaps a shallow reason. But alas–we can’t wait to see it.


The writing is dry. Though bits have narrative drive, the guide reads like a text book or incredibly niched encyclopedia. I skimmed several sections, searching instead for stories of the worst frostbite cases or team kerfuffles, and amidst detailed instructions of varying types of altitude sickness which I will never encounter, I found my mind wandering.


“In the most unpleasant incident, a beetle crawled into Speke’s ear and proceeded to make it its home. Speke tried pouring hot butter into his ear to wash it out but to no avail; in a more desperate act, he attempted to spear the beetle with a penknife. The beetle ate a hole between Speke’s ear and his nose, such that when he blew his nose, his ear whistled. Six months later, dismembered sections of the beetle began emerging in his earwax.”


Great for history and trivia buffs. If you don’t fall into one of those two categories, I’d check it out on Google Books first. But it is a fun book to have around.

Rating: 3 Stars.

Check out The Adventurer’s Handbook on Amazon here!

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    1 Comment

  • Sammie Lind says:

    Interesting… This is my First trip to this site. Thanks for sharing this. I will revisit this website. I was a room stlist for a while. Personal decor hint of the week is: Do not crowd a home. Room space is required. Farewell….