Jan Golembiewski on his discovery of MAGIC

Today we welcome author Jan Golembiewski to discuss his quest to discover MAGIC and his motivations for sharing those travel-adventure experiences in his new book from Transit Lounge.

MAGIC Jan Golembiewski - Interview
Jan Golembiewski

I left Australia when I was 18 to travel the world. To others, it looked like I was setting off on an ordinary gap-year. And certainly I wanted to do all the normal things a warm-blooded Aussie male would, of their break between high-school and university. Only I craved something more: I wanted to find out the truth that underlies existence. I looked around me at suburban Canberra and could see nothing worth living for. Dreary lives in suburban ruts, and beyond them, little fields occupied by angry farmers and disinterested sheep. What is this great life for – what is the purpose of billions of years of evolution – if it isn’t to be tested and tempered against the hard and dangerous anvil of the unknown, the unsafe and the impossible?

Some of my childhood was spent in a little village in one of the most remote parts of Papua New Guinea, where my mother was an artist and stepfather was doing anthropological research (you can read about that in mum’s book; ‘Watched By Ancestors’, or in my stepfather’s thesis: ‘Line to Heaven’.)

The tropical highlands of New Guinea are rich in magic. Although I never saw it happen, it is as present as sap in the jungle – everywhere, yet just beyond sight. In New Guinea, even the laws that govern commerce are magical: In a village near ours, for example, there’s a road that runs through the jungle. Numdi, a village chief had an insight that cargo would come flooding into his village in cars, if only there was a road. The rice and axes that the locals imagined never came. Numdi’s road connects to no others, and stops abruptly where his tribal lands end – in other words, the road runs nowhere.

At 18, I wasn’t much more pragmatic than Numdi. My path was also to lead to nowhere. But ‘Nowhere’ was very much part of my itinerary, and I wasn’t after cargo in any case. Indeed, as I travelled, I’d do some extreme shedding of everything I had. When I set off, I had a pack so heavy I could barely carry it, but by the end I wore only a beatific smile, a sarong and a string bag. What I carried was nothing more than a tattered vaccination certificate, a bottle of anti-malarials, a pencil stub, a blade to sharpen it with, an empty water bottle, a map of a corner of the Sahara traced onto page torn from a notebook, and a pack of tarot cards to guide me. I didn’t even have a passport or money – not even a single copper coin. Unlike Numdi, I didn’t want things. I wanted experience. Experience of magic, and over the course of two years, I got that in abundance.

My book, Magic is the story of those discoveries, as I made my way through the United States, the Caribbean, UK, Europe and Africa. It’s an extreme story – ending up with being tortured in African jails and even being sold as a slave. Lots of nail-biting stuff – but the real extreme journey wasn’t in minefields or grubby halls of imprisoned, forgotten men. The extreme story was the harrowing expedition I took inwardly. And that’s why I was shedding all my stuff and risking everything. Even as circumstances closed in on me with their razor sharp edges, I found that magic is indeed everywhere.

I wrote Magic because it’s a true story, and one worth sharing. Not so much so others can know the mad things I did, but to inspire readers to lift themselves out of their hum-drum ruts and to throw their own fears into the fires of experience. To explore elsewhere and the impossible themselves. By tackling the dangers of the edges of the known, you earn a gift for humanity. Evolution is predicated on facing off and surviving danger to return with lessons for everyone to share. Magic is my part in making humanity stronger, better and more human.

Magic Jan GolembiewskiMagic Synopsis

This is a true story … A young man heads off on a journey to find out if magic still exists in the world, to know its wonder, and to see if it might save him when his own life is unexpectedly at stake.

In the Caribbean, he meets a Rastafarian Don Juan who teaches him about the ‘natural mystic’. Fate propels his travels through the Americas and Europe to locate the source of this knowledge in Mother Africa, where his own emerging mastery of mysticism is tested by the Sahara desert. He is imprisoned in Nigeria, and tortured, and then sold as a slave.

Magic is an incredible journey, both physical and spiritual, that reverberates with the uniqueness of lived adventure and of a passionate heart and vision. Upon closing the last page of this book, we ache for the innocence to lose our way and travel deeper, to rediscover the savage but delicious nature of the miraculous in our own lives.

‘They try and say glory to God in the highest. I say it’s about glory to God in the lowest. If you can’t find God in the lowest, you’re wasting your time – and that’s where our protagonist finds his Magic– in prison cells, and as a slave in forgotten parts of Africa, in slums of New Orleans, and mosquito-ridden coastlines in the Caribbean This is an engrossing tale of a year down the path less travelled. Warm, funny and intensely human, Magic is an inspiring, deeply-felt and painfully honest coming-of age adventure. It’s a story of a perilous spiritual search that transcends religion, and an authentic adventure. An impressive debut.’ — Father Bob Maguire

(Transit Lounge Publishing, 1 October 2018)

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Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction, Adventure

About the Author, Jan Golembiewski

Jan Golembiewski grew up in suburban Canberra and in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He has a PhD in psychological aspects of architecture, and he runs his own architectural practice specialising in psychological aspects of design. Jan lives in Sydney with his wife, the novelist Bem Le Hunte and their children (Taliesin, Rishi and Kashi) and a revolving collection of friends.