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In 1982 I flew to Africa on a one-way ticket and have never stopped travelling since. I’ve witnessed wars, plagues, and terrible poverty. I’ve been imprisoned, shot at, and left for dead, but have never stopped being amazed at how good people can be and how wonderful the world is. Violent change has come to some places that I have known well - Darfur, South Sudan and Yemen, in particular - but many others have altered significantly too, if less dramatically. All this time, through 120-plus countries, I have been filling up hundreds of notebooks. Many stories have been published, mostly in The Guardian, but many more have not. In time those old travel stories have gathered a resonance and significance that can help us understand the present. Backstory extracts some insight from the long view of a traveller’s experience and illuminates our present times.

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