She describes herself as a “writer and wanderer.” Marco Polo is her hero and she once was obsessed with going to Mars. But speaking to The Globe and Mail in Toronto recently, Kate Harris made it clear that she’d rather not be on the road at the moment. “I really wish I was home,” the author said, pining for her log cabin in the remote northern town of Atlin, B.C. “It’s a quirky, artsy place, with lovable people that are my friends and adopted family.”
Who knew that Harris, whose Taylor Prize-winning work of literary non-fiction Lands of Lost Borders involves a bicycle trip along the fabled Silk Road, is a latent homebody? Stuck in Toronto on a stopover after a book tour in India, she spoke about the new book she’s working on, the adventurism she finds in self-isolation and her holy grail of life balance.
IN HER WORDS
The book I wrote was very much fuelled by wanderlust. But writing it in Atlin, the virtues of being a homebody became apparent to me. I love having roots in a place. Part of the challenge going forward is figuring out how to strike a balance between roots and the mobility I love and find so invigorating and mind-widening.
I’ll always stand by the value of going places where life operates very differently than what you’re used to. It’s good to see that the routines and the priorities you live by are not universal. Being in India recently reminded me of that.
But, also, with the state of the world the way it is now, the arguments for staying home are becoming more persuasive. So, lately I’ve been trying to understand how I can live daily life with the same sense of wonder and curiosity that comes so easily when you’re in a foreign place. That would be my holy grail, maybe.
I’m pretty deep into my new book, which is about putting down roots. I recently got my pilot’s license. I’m learning to fly, which will be a big theme to the book. How do you stay home gracefully and adventurously in a way that lets you see what is surprising about the familiar?
In a way, the familiar is the most exciting, because it’s never actually unchanging – it’s not that familiar at all.
So, the book is sort of a travel memoir about a globetrotter who decides to stay in a place for a while. And it’s funny, it’s been a real slog. When I was writing the first book, I felt that the next one wouldn’t be as hard. I felt I was learning how to do it with that first book. But that certainly has not been the case. It’s just as hard, if not harder.
But that’s okay. There’s no other line of work I want to pursue. Putting words on the page is my agony and it is my joy.
The Globe has five brand-new arts and lifestyle newsletters: Health & Wellness, Parenting & Relationships, Sightseer, Nestruck on Theatre and What to Watch. Sign up today.