In Outlandish, acclaimed travel writer Nick Hunt takes us across landscapes that should not be there, wildernesses found in Europe yet seemingly belonging to far-off continents: a patch of Arctic tundra in Scotland; the continent's largest surviving remnant of primaeval forest in Poland and Belarus; Europe's only true desert in Spain; and the fathomless grassland steppes of Hungary.
From snow-capped mountain range to dense green forest, desert ravines to threadbare, yellow open grassland, these anomalies transport us to faraway regions of the world. More like pockets of Africa, Asia, the Poles or North America, they make our own continent seem larger, stranger and more filled with secrets.
Against the rapid climate breakdown of deserts, steppes and primaeval jungles across the world, Outlandish discovers the outlandish environments so much closer to home – along with their abundant wildlife: reindeer; bison; ibex; wolves and herds of wild horses. Blending sublime travel writing, nature writing and history – by way of Paleolithic cave art, reindeer nomads, desert wanderers, shamans, Slavic forest gods, European bison, Wild West fantasists, eco-activists, horseback archers, Big Grey Men and other unlikely spirits of place – these desolate and rich environments show us that the strange has always been near.
Nick Hunt has walked and written across much of Europe. His articles have appeared in The Economist, The Guardian and other publications, and he works as an editor for the Dark Mountain Project. His first book, Walking the Woods and the Water (Nicholas Brealey, 2014), was a finalist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. He currently lives in Bristol.
"As strange and haunting as anything in the recent literature of place [...] [a] beautiful, disquieting book"
– Financial Times
"A fine descriptive writer"
"A wise and beautiful book, glowing with atmosphere and passion for the world that's slipping between our careless fingers, Nick Hunt's Outlandish shines a light on Europe's past and offers an eerie glance towards its future"
– Nick Jubber
"Nick Hunt discovers something intense and otherworldly in Europe's wild fringes – a wonderful and deeply absorbing book"
"Nick Hunt's bold exploration of our hidden continent makes you fall in wonder with the Earth again. Passionate, learned, surprising and revelatory, this is a journey for our times – into 'places of power' beyond human influence, where timelines get tangled like the last of the ancient forests"
– Kapka Kassabova
"An enchanting collection"
– The Bookseller
"Nick Hunt's powerful imagery and vivid storytelling make for an original and unique travel book. Outlandish is beautifully written, enriching and informative ensuring each chapter, each page, is a journey of its own where his curiosity takes the reader with him to somewhere new entirely"
– Geordie Stewart
"Hunt paints with words, the canvas is large and there are many vivid colours. The texture of each challenging environment comes rippling through each page as we can sniff the air, suss out the sky line, test the ground and set off in any direction we choose"
– James Crowden
"Outlandish is filled with boundless energy and insatiable curiosity yet it is gloriously gentle, too, carefully and elegantly steering us towards new ways of seeing our world"
– Caroline Eden, author of Black Sea
"Precise, moving and exacting in its prose, this embodied and emotional journey gives the near world a fresh urgency, and makes it suddenly curious"
– Helen Jukes, author of A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings
"If on the surface Outlandish is, like much travel writing, a search for anomalies – places out of place – it becomes a reckoning with what has been squandered, and with an environmental future that often seems too horrifying to face [...] Those spectres that have dogged him across Europe are refigured as emissaries from the worst of futures. In this beautiful, disquieting book, Hunt helps us to look them in the eye."
– Will Atkins, Financial Times
"If travel writing is your ticket out of dreadful headlines, you will love Outlandish. Ready yourself to be transported to a puzzling, preternatural world of Standing Eagles and pagan gods, reindeer herds and polytunnel pampas – all, more or less, on your doorstep. [...] Outlandish cements Hunt's reputation as a stellar writer about nature as well as travel [...] As a species, we are hurtling to the edge. Miraculously, the friend of Hunt's friend survived. If we manage to do the same, it will be in a small way thanks to delicate, devastating books like this."
– Oliver Balch, Literary Review
"Vivid, moving, profound and sometimes very funny [...] Outlandish is a truly stunning work of non-fiction and an important addition to writing that explores the deep connections between our selves and our place on Earth"
– Joanna Pocock, author of Surrender
"Hunt himself regards Outlandish as "a book of fantasy", but it is more than that. It is also a wave of a warning flag, elegantly told with plenty of proper travel and entertaining encounters – plus a fair few dreams – along the way"
– The Critic
"Proving that you don't need to travel long-haul to find adventure, Hunt sets out to explore four of Europe's strangest environments [...] As well as sublime evocation of landscapes, there are encounters with the people who live in these extreme places."
– Tom Robbins, Financial Times
"A deep dive into some of Europe's most extreme and unexpected landscapes. Fascinating, illuminating, and filled with revelations. Makes the world seem bigger and brighter than you had imagined, which is all you could ever hope for from a travel book"
– Neil Ansell
"And the eternal beauty of travel writing is, of course, that you don't have to go anywhere to voyage the world. With books like Nick Hunt's Outlandish [...] you won't have to budge from your arm chair to sustainably broaden your mind."
– Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
"Nick Hunt is splendid company: kind, acute and wise, with an unerring eye for eloquent detail and a philosopher's view of the big picture. Don't miss this walk with him through portals you'd never stumble across yourself, and on into the thrilling surprise of a wholly improbable Europe"
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast