Wax and Gold: Journey in Ethiopia & other road less traveled

A lovely tour through some of the world’s most fascinating and interesting countries.

Don’t try to catch a leopard by the tail, but if you do, don’t let it go – Ethiopian Proverb

In this collection of travel stories, author Sam McManus has compiled 15 years’ worth of adventure travel writing from Ethiopia, Japan, Bolivia, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Mongolia, Lebanon, Oman, and Costa Rica. The stories revolve around a central solo journey exploring the mountains of Ethiopia over a three-month period in 2015, which led to the founding of sustainable adventure travel company YellowWood Adv.

The most treasured type of Ethiopian Amharic prose and poetry, generally translated as “wax and gold” [sam-enna warq], is precisely composed with an emphasis on the duality of its meanings. The top meaning, or wax, must be removed in order to disclose the secret core of gold beneath. Ethiopia, as a country, also invites you to seek deeper within yourself, to completely comprehend and appreciate spiritual importance that frequently resonates beyond simple or plain exteriors.

Wax and Gold is a wonderful travel book that provides images of interesting and unusual nations that aren’t generally on the itinerary of the average tourist – Mongolia, Iran, Ethiopia, and Lebanon, to mention a few.

It is a beautifully detailed story of Sam McManus’s life as he traveled through various nations, witnessing the genuine life of people and the natural world as he trekked, rafted, and explored as part of his life seeking out experiences for his tour company.

The distinction between this and other adventure books is that this isn’t a story about one man’s quest to find himself in the woods. Instead, it’s a colorful tour of nations Sam has visited in search of tours, so it’s usually conducted by local guides. This gave me the idea of Sam as a wealthy tourist seeking an immersive experience in various cultures, which appears to be what he provides on his excursions.

While this may upset armchair travelers, Sam’s attention to detail about the history and culture of the areas he visits is interesting. I learned about Islam in Iran, Egyptian and Lebanese politics, the reality of the Ethiopian famine, and Costa Rican ecotourism. This material is also skillfully integrated into the travel story, so it does not read as a jumble.

As the story switches between different places and back to his trip to Ethiopia, which led to him launching his travel company, Ethiopia wraps itself around every other adventure. As he travels around Ethiopia, the story of his voyage is elegantly wrapped up by the country’s political history and natural beauties.

Wax and Gold is an enthralling novel that I heartily recommend, especially in our current travel-deprived era.

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