Graham Field is one of my favorite authors. He writes with such an honest and self-deprecating style that it’s contagious. You can’t help but empathize with the many predicaments he seems to fall into. Near Varna is his fourth book and while it does fall into the “adventure rider” category, it’s much more than that. The book is about finally finding your home after many years of searching and traveling.
In this book, Field decides to sell his house of seven years in the U.K. and move to Bulgaria, close to the location of MotoCamp, a well-known pit stop on the motorcycle traveling circuit. With the help of MotoCamp staff, he finds his perfect house for £25,000 ($32,700), a fraction of the cost of anything equivalent back in the U.K.
The book details his trials and tribulations setting up house in a foreign country. As it’s part of the EU, he is able to legally move to Bulgaria, but still has to navigate the bureaucracy involved. Most of this is done on his KTM 950 Adventure, which is great for long trips but not for picking up groceries at the corner store.
Life at MotoCamp
His interactions with the many expatriates and MotoCamp staff and guests make for many entertaining moments. His observations of those that pass through are spot-on, whether it’s travel-weary Australians that should—in his opinion—return home, or his obvious distaste for the German woman who funds her travels by writing five-star reviews for products that she’s never touched!
He obviously takes a dim view of those who solicit money to pay for their round-the-world adventures, including the common use of “patrons.” As he states succinctly: “There is a simple solution ... It’s internationally known as ‘work.’” Field is someone who actually cares about himself and how he is perceived by others, which is quite refreshing amongst writers of this genre. He stays at MotoCamp while searching for a house and while going through the closing process. MotoCamp plays a big part in this book and that is also one of my few criticisms. Sometimes it’s a bit too much.
A Difficult Balance
One of the most interesting features of the book is how Field manages to keep his “adventure travel” business going while trying to settle in Bulgaria. It’s challenging, and he doesn’t mince words when discussing the sometimes poorly organized events in the U.K. and Ireland. Bouncing back and forth between Bulgaria and adventure conferences is exhausting, and he needs to decide if these trips are worth the expense. He saves money by sleeping in his car or wherever he can find cheap accommodation to help make ends meet.
I share Field’s window into his new immigrant life. Moving in, meeting locals and fellow expatriates, the house warming party, discovering where to purchase supplies for DIY projects, and of course exploring destinations on his bike. As a fairly fresh immigrant to Israel, I can relate.
Field’s frequent use of wordplay keeps the reader interested. My eye-rolling favorite came when Field was borrowing a ladder from a friend:
“He does have a really lovely stepladder though; he never knew his real ladder.”
With the current COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt on most travel and especially worldwide adventure motorcycle travel, I wonder how it will affect many of the current writers. However, I know that whatever happens, Graham Field will find his new niche. Looking forward to Part 2.