Lu's travels have taken her to almost 70 countries around the world. Her first book, An African Alphabet, traces a cross-continental journey from Morocco to South Africa, stopping in a town beginning with every letter of the alphabet along the way. Her second book, The Cicada's Summer Song, describes her 1200km walk around the island of Shikoku, Japan, on the 88 temple pilgrimage. She is currently working simultaneously on a collection of essays about India, and a book on festivals in Australia, where she lives with her husband, son, and pug.
The Shikoku pilgrimage is a 1200km circular route around Japan's fourth largest island, visiting sacred sites associated with the 8th century 'Grand Master', Kobo Daishi. For over a thousand years, pilgrims have been walking in the footsteps of the Saint, leaving behind their regular lives and paying respects at the 88 Buddhist temples. Dressed in white robes and conical hats, modern day pilgrims cross mountains, forests and paddies, as well as teeming cities and busy highways.
The traditional seasons to make the circuit are cherry-blossom spring and golden-leaved autumn, so when Lu Barnham embarked on a summer pilgrimage in 2008, she discovered a sweltering, colourful island, wriggling with snakes and spiders, abundant with busy farmers tending bounteous crops. Despite her lack of Japanese language skills, she was met with smiles, gifts and encouragement from the local people, and for 51 days, her arduous solo trek was accompanied by the constant song of the cicada.
Lu set out to Shikoku hoping for a challenge, and a chance to experience Japanese culture by participating in an ancient Buddhist tradition. 'The Cicada's Summer Song' is an account of her journey.
An African Alphabet follows Lu Barnham’s 20,000 mile journey across the length and breadth of the continent, visiting a town for every letter of the alphabet—in order. Riding shotgun in a Congolese logging truck, befriending a drunken secret agent in Angola, dodging militants in the Niger Delta and fist-fights in a Bamako market, the author follows the little-travelled Western route from Morocco to South Africa by bus, boat, roof rack, donkey cart and lorry, always in the company (and sometimes the laps) of the locals. With her philosopher-photographer partner, Seth, she discovers the modern, everyday Africa that exists beyond doom-and-gloom headlines and sunset safari shots.
They are embraced like family in Ibadan, robbed at twilight in Dakar, and invited to bargain with voodoo gods in Lomé. Their route is blocked by everyone from Ninja rebels in the forests of Congo to bribe-hunting police in Cameroon, yet smoothed out by a Burkinabe chef, a gentle Moroccan stonemason and an 18 year old Gambian boy with a passion for football. An African Alphabet is a travelogue about flowing with Africa rather than overcoming it. From the first tentative hours in Agadir to the triumphant arrival in Zagazig, travelling alphabetically takes the reader through 24 countries, through dust-blown hamlets and teeming cities, to the continent's hidden places as well as its eternal icons.
Taking to the road alone is a brave decision. A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone, edited by Gemma Thompson, is an eye-opening, honest and inspiring on-the-road companion. Richly varied, these witty, inspiring, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable travel stories have been written by women of all ages, nationalities, backgrounds and experiences, each with a compelling tale to tell.
Lu's essay, 'Rickshaws and Recces in Rajasthan' is featured alongside chapters from Jules Sanderson, Amy Baker, Bryanna Plog, Jennifer Barclay, Jennifer Purdie, Eleanor Blackburn, Orla Lehane, Jessica Whyte, Jane McIntyre, Shannon Berseth, Hayley Gislason, Gemma Thompson, Ashley Macnie, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, Lauryn Massey, Allie George, Anna-Maria Steel, Jane Wilson-Howarth, Anne Strathie, Zoë Cano, Lizbeth Meredith and Rebecca Hall.