The Idiot and the Odyssey
When his wife of 20 years fell in love with a 24-year-old bar bouncer and told him “to take a hike,” the author, a Redding native who’s lived in France for more than 30 years, took her advice literally. Starting in Antibes, on the French Riviera, he set out to walk around the Mediterranean Sea, a journey of at least 10,000 miles. An inveterate hiker and wanderer (as a journalist, he’s been in more than 100 countries), Stratte-McClure undertook the “MedTrek,” as he names it, in 2000 “to reflect, stay in shape, forge new friendships and perhaps have a life-changing adventure or two.” With a well-thumbed copy of Homer’s Odyssey in his backpack, he ambles unhurriedly along the coast of “the sea that has seen it all,” joined at different times by his dog Bogart, his son Luke, a French muse named Delphyne and others. Along the way he meets Gypsies and monks, nudists and thieves, and like his mentor Odysseus he sees in them “gods and goddesses” there to help or hinder him. He’s still walking: “It took Odysseus 20 years, so I figure 20 years is enough time.” The book’s title suggests its tone: at once ambitious and self-effacing, literate and down-to-earth. Stratte-McClure is an erudite man whose lust for life is balanced by Buddhist wisdom, and he brings to each moment on his journey a genuine affection for all he encounters that is irresistible.