Fifty Great Escapes

A Global Guide to Creativity

Fifty Great Escapes

Those of us with dreams and a desire to explore have no problems following Mark Twain’s advice and making the big plunge into the unknown. Others need more encouragement. For the more hesitant, there now is an ideal guide. When reading Jonathan Lee’s new book 50 Great Escapes – A Global Guide to Creativity you can’t help but daydream about your own great escape.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So, throw of the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Inspiration, creation, big-break, hell-raising and reinvention

Inspiration, creation, big-break, hell-raising and reinvention are the key words of 50 Great Escapes. Looking for a place to write your next bestseller, or just seeking a place to recharge your batteries? This book might give you an idea that will forever change your life. If not, it – at least – makes a very interesting read.

50 Great Escapes is a well illustrated collection of stories which brings 50 bright thinkers, artists and composers together with 50 of the most inspiring places on the planet and it encourages you to follow their and your creative instincts. When reading the book you are actively challenged to find an inspirational place of your own and use this experience for your individual creativeness. This is what makes the book more than ‘just another coffee table tome’ or travel guide sat on the shelf.

Every chapter describes one particular inspirational place. Ranging from tranquil to thrilling; the locations vary from an isolated Austrian mountain–top, to a smoke-filled Oxford Pub or the magic Fijian underwater world. But the real merit of this book is that it encourages you to find your own creative space. Jonathan Lee helps you on your way by providing detailed travel instructions to all the places described in the book. Additionally, 100 new ideas – untouched and unspoiled by geniuses – are provided for those dreamers who are in need of creative assistance.

Really too much of a good thing

Aldous Huxley describes his favourite place – Lake Atitlán in the Western Highlands of Guatemala – as ‘really too much of a good thing’. The illustrations explain Huxley’s appreciation, and he can be pictured sitting on the lake’s shore penning his diary and mingling with the local Indian villagers. This was his moment of artistic stimulation and it led to great works of literary art.

Visitors of Spain might find it worthwhile making the trip down south to the region of Oasys. It is here that many of the famous Spaghetti Westerns by Sergio Leonie were shot. Admirers of Wild West cinema are able to wonder through a Hollywood-like film set, complete with saloons, a county jail and a fortified bank. The town is now a theme park where actors perform classic cowboy showdowns at least once a day and a must for all those seeking their very own Cowboy and Indian experience.

However, not all the places are this idyllic. Hungarian-born photographer Robert Capa struggled on to Omaha Beach to take the most well known but disturbing photos of his career; Joseph Conrad negotiated through the war-stricken rapids of the Belgian Congo to write one of the 20th century’s most celebrated novellas; and Paul Gauguin left his wife and young family fleeing the pressures of modern life by escaping to a small island in the South Pacific.

It is these disastrous experiences that really trigger the imagination. Author Jonathan Lee reminds us that not all is lost when things go wrong. “It’s midnight, and the rain is hammering down on the roof of a disused monastery, perched on a hill towards the north-west coast of Mallorca. Inside a damp cell sits a man at a piano, wracked by tuberculosis and half hallucinating. The man is the 28-year old composer Frédéric Chopin, and he is grappling with a work that is to become his sublime Opus 28.”

Hardship, tragedy, inspiration or joy, 50 Great Escapes offers ideas for transformative experiences for all of us. Anyone who is seeking inspiration, thinking of moving abroad or is simply interested in an entertaining read should give the book a chance.

Other stories in the book include:

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein, Skojlden, Norway
  • Frédéric Chopin, Mallorca, Spain
  • Lord Byron, Europe/Asia
  • The Beatles, Rishikesh, India
  • Sergio Leone, Oasys, Spain
  • Aleister Crowley, Sukhetar and Ramache, Nepal
  • Gustav Klimt, Attersee, Austria
  • Ernest Hemmingway, Harry’s Bar, Italy
  • Samira Makhmalbaf, Afghanistan
  • Pablo Picasso, Golfe-Juan, France

50 Great Escapes has been published by Prestel; you can buy it online at:

Further reading

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