Book Review: The Hippie Trail by Sharif Gemie and Brian Ireland

Book Name: The Hippie Trail

Authors: Sharif Gemie and Brian Ireland

Publisher: Aleph

Rating: 5/5

Book Blurb: This is the first detailed history of the Hippie Trail in the 1960s and 1970s. Going beyond the dozens of personal memoirs and travellers’ accounts that have been written about the legendary overland route between the West and South Asia, the book records the joys and pains experienced by the huge numbers of (mostly) young hippies on their travels to India and other ‘points east’ such as Nepal and Afghanistan. Written in a clear, simple style, it goes deep into the motivations and the experiences of hundreds of thousands of hippies who made the journey. This account is structured around a few key questions: Were the travellers simply motivated by a search for drugs or was there something deeper that they were looking for? What was the truth about the love and sexual freedom that was supposed to be an integral part of the hippie subculture? Were they basically just budget tourists? Or were they pilgrims in thrall to the mysticism of the East? Besides an insightful analysis of the various aspects of the hippie phenomenon, the authors also take a look at how the travellers have been represented in films, novels and autobiographical accounts. In sum, The Hippie Trail should appeal to all those interested in a fascinating moment in cultural history and its far-reaching effects on the generations that followed.

Review: The Hippie Trail is a well researched book considering the fact that unlike other historical events, the hippie movement was not organised under one banner and does not have any set adherents or historical records.

The authors have carried out meticulous research compiling this book into a rare scholarly book and keeping it condensed- sort of a small encyclopedia for anybody interested in learning about the hippie culture.

At one point, the movement had become so powerful that it even threatened organised religions and social setups and has some dedicated followers even to this day.

“It is sobering to think that despite the hundreds of thousands of people who made this journey, Hideous Kinky- the film rather than the book- is perhaps the one commercially successful portrayal of their experience.”

The book delves on what exactly a hippie is or was since its very difficult to define the term since it followed no set rule or dictum. The very origin of the concept stemmed from a belief in freedom and a certain disregard for established customs and rules.

It elaborates into the drug culture and follows the hippie trail through several countries documenting the practices associated with the movement. I delves deeply into the free sexuality- a trait exhibited by hippie although not a defining characteristic by any means. It is important to understand that the hippie movement grew from a disenchantment of the young folk from political leadership, capitalist world and how the world was being run. This book therefore puts the perspective right and documents the fact that the hippie trail could be completed and was done even without drugs and all the kinky stuff that we generally associate the movement with.

Overall, it is an extremely well researched work and deserves a read.

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