The Topography of Fear’ Book Review – Adventure Motorcycle Magazine | Dauktion

Written by Mathew Sturtevant | Reviewed by Sam Manicom | Photos from Posted in Media

This book is a shining example of how the darkness of the mind can dominate – and yet be defeated. It’s also about how making your dreams come true can open up a world of possibilities.

The subject is, as the title makes obvious fear, Explored through the story of two separate motorcycle journeys across the United States, journeys that challenged the author and changed his life. From an early age we are trained to hide our fears, and all too often when someone expresses that they are not in complete control of their emotions, others think less about them. Mathew’s story confirms that anyone who faces and deals with intense fear is, perhaps unexpectedly, a very brave person – and an inspiration.

When I originally read the title, I assumed it would be full of Hollywood bling and hype, psychological babble, or a testosterone-injected story. Not so. However, it’s peppered with some great descriptions and insightful honesty that are justifiably uncomfortable at times.

Mathew Sturtevant is a successful professional photographer and the author of a highly acclaimed photo book on the Austin, Texas music scene. Life was good on the surface, but agoraphobia crept into almost every aspect of his being, causing anxiety that quickly spiraled out of control. It was so bad that even his smaller decisions were plagued with “what ifs?” Fears. To counteract this, he planned a big test – he set out Trans America Trail (DID) and fully confront his agoraphobia.

The first half of the book describes a world seen through the eyes of a man constantly challenged and massively frustrated by his fears. He rides with two friends who have very different backgrounds, ambitions and personal timelines. One he knows very well, and this friend understands Mathew enough to tolerate his emotional jumble – the other not so much. The trio bikes are suitable for that DID, they are capable off-road drivers and have good gear, but only one track map and a single GPS, and they have never ridden together before. A potentially disastrous mix? Yes, especially when the author’s constant fear grips him every day, creating situations that his friends find extremely difficult to deal with. Their endurance and thinning tolerance are respectfully described by the author.

The first half of the book bothered me initially, in part because much of it focused on places they stayed and what they ate, rather than the riding or the people they met. Eventually I realized that this approach was the most natural and honest way to describe how up to date Mathew was and how his survival was anchored to such milestones. And there are moments of descriptive clarity and humor that are a pleasure to read.

On that note, if you’re looking for a book about the joys of driving DID, That’s not it. If you want a story about courage, human interactions, dealing with the unexpected and pushing personal boundaries, then this is the book for you. It’s an adventure on two wheels – and of mind – that reminds me of this quote from Stacy Westfall: “Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere; and sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.”

The second half of The Topography of Fear starts with a good wedge of color photos. A few years after DID Ride has changed Mathew’s life significantly, but his mind is still too often suffocated by the harshness of fear and the resulting insecurity. He describes his ongoing frustration with himself in a way that readers will appreciate. The story comes to life with the injection of a vital new personality and a new journey. A strong, insightful, well-travelled woman and Mathew’s courage are key to his new challenge. The next few chapters take you from feeling on shaky feet gazing at an insurmountable mountain of fear and confusion, to vistas from above filled with sunshine and optimism.

As I have run out of review space, you must read the book to find out who Gabriella is and how her personality, way of thinking about life and ambitions transform the life of Mathew. This book will surprise you.

ISBN: 9780578849553

Paperback: $20| Amazon: Paperback Only | Kindle: Currently unavailable

Where to buy:

Official site btn amazon

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