A journey from Shanghai to Cape Town overland, described in a series of long-form dispatches. The literary travelogue, reinvented.
To clarify what Old World Wandering will produce, we’ve decided to offer all of our backers – present and future – a subscription to Old World Wandering’s long-form dispatches. Every backer will receive at least one long-form dispatch from every country we travel through on our journey from Shanghai to Cape Town, available for download in a wide range of formats.
A journey, not a destination
Old World Wandering is an experiment. It is a literary travelogue reinvented for the internet. We’ve spent the past year travelling across Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, looking for connections: connections between past and present, between communities, and – most of all – between places. We believe that travel writing is about journeys, not destinations, about people, not a list of sites, and – at its heart – about the connections that bind us all together. It is also about more than just the news.
Put in the same place, journalists and travellers will have very different stories to tell. In Iran, for example, a journalist will look for an angle: women’s rights, say, or protests against the government. That’s vital work, but because most people have put together their impression of Iran almost entirely from what appears in the news, they think it is a dangerous place to visit, while any traveller will tell you that Iranians are among the most hospitable people in the world.
We’re not travelling from Shanghai to Cape Town to chase stories. We’re doing it to give substance to all the places we know about only from the news, and both of us think the best way to share that picture is through long-form dispatches.
Across the Old World
We have a long road still ahead of us, and we want to pave it with stories. Over the next 18 months – or longer – the two of us will travel from Shanghai to Cape Town overland. Our journey will take us across the length of the Silk Road, from Xi’an to Istanbul, where we’ll turn south and make our way along Africa’s east coast to our homes near the continent’s southern tip.
This is a journey we will make, one way or another, but with your help it can be much more. Old World Wandering has already published long-form non-fiction recognised for its quality and depth. We’ve documented the world’s largest gathering of women in India, for instance, and discussed development and identity with the Chinese fortune seekers transforming Southeast Asia’s sleepiest capital. We’ve done this without payment, because we love travel writing and we want to be a part of its transition to the internet, but our attention has also been divided. Like everyone, we need to earn money, and for us that means regularly stopping en route to write for financial magazines.
Quality writing takes time. The Chinese of Vientiane is 9,576 words long and took 71 hours to write, not to mention edit, post – with photos – and promote. Daisann McLane, National Geographic Traveller’s Editor at Large, called it “the best writing I've read lately on the most under-reported Southeast Asian country.” It has been translated into Chinese – twice – as well as Lao.
We’ll be travelling through China with a longlist of stories while this campaign is running its course. It includes a portrait of the 100,000-strong African community in Guangzhou, profiles of two young women whose lives have been transformed utterly by moving to Shanghai, and an exploration of Chinese creativity in Jingdezhen, the world’s oldest industrial town. Travel writing is separated from journalism by its accidents and we hope the ideas on this longlist are only a start. With your support, they will be.
Who are we?
Iain Manley and Claire van den Heever, a South African couple who have travelled together for eight years. Iain's first book – about the pirates, prostitutes and opium peddlers of old Singapore – was published in 2010. Claire's, which tells the story of Chinese art's journey from propaganda to market darling, is due for publication in October.
“Old World Wandering is taking a new and refreshing approach to travel writing, creating a travelogue that offers sharp, detailed long-form narratives.”
Henry Lane Fox, The Browser
“Old World Wandering consistently puts out some of the best travel writing around. That the whole thing is done by two people on a shoestring makes it all the more incredible.”
Aaron Lammer, Longform
“Thoughtful, well-written slow travel writing with a strong sense of history and culture is hard to find nowadays—here's one place where it reliably can be found.”
Daisann McLane, National Geographic Traveller
We've done our best to offer backers high quality rewards, and as a result roughly half of our $34,500 target will only cover overheads. All rewards include international shipping.
If you pledge $50 to receive a custom journal from our partners at Bound, you'll receive a redemption code by email when the campaign reaches its target.
If you’d like to receive two of any of our unlimited rewards – like a set of photographs for you and a friend – simply double your pledge. Unfortunately, we can only fulfil one limited reward per pledge. If two of you are interested in joining us for a long weekend in Istanbul – and you can't pay separately – or you want more than one hardcover book, send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll figure something out.
The future of Old World Wandering rests on this project. Thank you for believing in us, and for spreading the word.
Thank you to Joel and the team at Bound, Chris Hoare, Michael Elliman, and Debbie Hill for all their support. We are grateful, too, to the staff at Riverloft Restaurant for helping us film the video, and for the bottomless cups of Lao coffee which fuelled us through the last few months. Special thanks to Ping at Pathoumphone Guesthouse for his cameo in the video, and for making us so welcome in Luang Prabang, even when we brought Em the stray kitten to live in our room.
Charlie Jackson, thank you – we couldn’t have done this without you.
Thank you also to the countless other people who, over the months or years, have shown Old World Wandering their support. It hasn't gone unnoticed.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $34,500 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on October 11, 2012.
Aug 28, 2012 - Oct 11, 2012
Pledge $2 or more
We’ll send you a photo of exactly where we are when our phone beeps with notification of your pledge. This is our only instant reward, delivered whether or not we reach our funding target. Pledge a dollar, and we’ll use Kickstarter’s messaging service or your Twitter handle to send you a photo. It could be of eastern China zipping by from the window of a bullet train, the Forbidden City in Beijing or the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator.Estimated delivery: Oct 2012
Pledge $4 or more
A long-form story written just for you, our backers, published in a variety of digital formats. It might be about crossing the Mongolian steppe on horseback or China’s new influence along what remains of the Silk Road. To thank you, we'll add your name and country at the end of the story you helped to create.Estimated delivery: Mar 2013
Pledge $5 or more
1 backer All gone!
Receive a subscription to all of Old World Wandering’s long-form dispatches, available for a wide range of devices. You’ll receive at least one dispatch from every country we travel through on our journey from Shanghai to Cape Town. You’ll also receive the long-form story written just for backers, including your name and country at the end.Estimated delivery: Oct 2012
Pledge $10 or more
We'll send you a postcard from a Silk Road oasis along our route – with a handwritten word of thanks – and the digital story above, written just for backers.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
Pledge $20 or more
An advance release, digital edition of a book still on the far horizon. We don't know exactly when we'll reach Africa's southern tip, but once we do we'll embark on another journey: writing the story of our trip across three continents, from Shanghai to Cape Town. This is an option for patient backers, willing to invest in the future of Old World Wandering. You’ll also receive a postcard and the digital story.Estimated delivery: Jul 2014
Pledge $35 or more
A personal email with advice on visiting a city, country or region in the Old World. Take a look at OldWorldWandering.com, tell us where you're going, and we’ll share our discoveries with you, along with our mistakes. You’ll also receive a postcard and the digital story.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $50 or more
Document a journey of your own in a custom journal from our partners at Bound. Choose any combination of blank or lined pages, calendars, maps, musical staves – and more – for this 140 page journal. We’ll also send you a postcard and the digital story. (Journals are 4" x 6" with a sturdy yet flexibull™ linen-wrapped cover in a choice of colours.)Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $65 or more
Three photographs of striking landscapes, memorable scenes and photogenic characters from the Old World, selected by us. We’ll send you high-quality, professional photo prints roughly the size of a magazine cover, along with a postcard, the digital story and an advance release of our e-book.Estimated delivery: Mar 2013
Pledge $80 or more
10 backers Limited (40 of 50 left)
An Old World Wandering collectible: The long-form story in a beautiful limited-edition hardback book, featuring full colour photographs and a map. No more than eighty will ever be printed. You'll also receive a postcard, a digital edition of the story and an advance release of our e-book.Estimated delivery: Apr 2013
Pledge $150 or more
7 backers Limited (8 of 15 left)
THE TRAVELLER'S BUNDLE: A custom journal, a limited-edition hardback and a photograph from the Old World. We’ll also send you the digital story, an advance release of our e-book and a postcard.Estimated delivery: Apr 2013
Pledge $225 or more
5 backers Limited (10 of 15 left)
THE READER'S BUNDLE: A signed copy of both Iain's Tales of Old Singapore (2010), about the pirates, prostitutes and opium peddlers who built Asia's greatest emporium, and Claire's Paint By Numbers (2012), which tells the story of Chinese art's journey from propaganda to market darling. You’ll also receive a limited-edition hardback, a photograph from the Old World, the digital story, an advance release of our e-book and a postcard.Estimated delivery: Apr 2013
Pledge $350 or more
Markets are among the greatest of travel's joys and in our age of mass production, handmade, rare or unique goods have more value than ever. We’ll give you a call to talk about your personal tastes, then hunt like bloodhounds through workshops, souqs and bazaars – haggling with antique dealers and carpet salesmen – all in the name of finding you something special that somehow embodies the Old World. This distinctive, high-quality gift will be purchased as close to the source as possible and comes with a photograph of the person who sold it to us in the treasure trove where it was bought. You'll also receive the digital story, an advance release of our e-book and a postcard.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $1,200 or more
2 backers Limited (8 of 10 left)
Join us for a long weekend in Istanbul, the Silk Road's western terminus and our journey's halfway mark. Most visitors to the capital of the Byzantine Empire take in its Roman and Ottoman history but on this, our second visit, we want to explore how trade links shaped the city, and find what's left of the riches that arrived here along the Silk Road. We'll meet resident experts with knowledge of the city's lesser known nooks and crannies, then dine on local delicacies beside the Bosphorus, where Europe and Asia intersect. We'll point you in the direction of our favourite hammam or spend afternoons drinking tea in the souqs. There will be plenty of food for thought on this out-of-the-ordinary trip, but also the freedom to decide which Istanbul you'd like to see. The price includes three nights in an elegant hotel (with breakfast), transport within Istanbul, expert guides and entrance fees while we explore the city. After you return home, you'll receive a limited-edition hardback book with a story about our time in Istanbul, including full colour photographs and a map. We will be equally happy to spend a long weekend with one or ten of you. 24-27 May 2013 (UK Bank Holiday). Excludes flights.Estimated delivery: May 2013
Pledge $2,000 or more
3 backers Limited (3 of 6 left)
Reach Old World Wandering’s loyal, intelligent readers by being the sole sponsor of our website and email updates for a full two months. You'll also receive the digital story, an advance release of our e-book and a postcard. Please email email@example.com for more details.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012