As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is the greatest little work on idle wandering that I have encountered. In 1934 England times were tough and jobs were scarce so what was a young man to do, Laurie Lee set out with a small pack and his violin and made for Spain. This is a story of wandering without a schedule nor even a definite goal, there was little in his plan. He slept in the open, he slept in barns and he slept in inns. He encountered many along the way, played his violin for a few coins and ate what he could gather. He does not spend excessive time on the sites he sees but he relates his wandering and his experiences. Lee helps us know the heat of Spain something which I have experienced first hand.
Patrick Leigh Fermor offers us a similar account of idle wandering, starting barely a few months prior to Lee, making his way across Europe to Istanbul. Leigh Fermor’s three volume account is wonderful in many ways, but one must be a thorough polymath to appreciate all that he relates, architecture and art figure prominently in his account in ways that can appeal only to the experts. But between these paragraphs lies the treasures of travel that can be found in Laurie Lee’s wanderings.
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is Laurie Lee’s only contribution to the travel genre (he was foremost a poet, nothing of which I’ve read) with the possible exception of A Moment of War which covers his participation in the Spanish Civil War. His account of wandering through Spain concludes with his escape from Malaga as he leaves the guns of conflict behind him. He would return to be a participant in that war.