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A young doctor cycles around the world and discovers how societies treat their most vulnerable, in this thought-provoking and witty medical odyssey.
When Stephen Fabes left his job as an emergency-room doctor and set out to cycle around the world, frontline medicine quickly faded from his mind. The daily challenges of life on the road stack up as he navigates deserts—coaxing a few more miles from ‘Ol’ Patchy’ (his most faithful innertube)—and learns to live with the seeming constant threat posed by local wildlife, be it mangy dogs in Indonesia, grizzly bears in Alaska, or, in Australia, the common death adder, three words he was dismayed to find exist in sequence.
But leaving medicine behind was not as easy as it seems.
As Stephen crossed continents—on a journey that would take six years and cover more than 53,000 miles—he finds people whose health has suffered through exile, stigma, or circumstance and others, whose lives have been saved through kindness and community.
After encountering a frozen body of a monk in the Himalayas, he is drawn ever more to healthcare at the margins of the world, to crumbling sanitoriums and refugee camps, to city dumps and war-torn hospital wards.
In this gripping blend of true adventure and medical narrative, Stephen learns the value of listening to lives—not just solving diagnostic puzzles. Signs of Life challenges us to see care for the sick as a duty born of our compassion and our humanity.
About the Author
Stephen Fabes is a physician and a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Telegraph, CNN, Backpacker, Adventure Travel, and Cycle. He has appeared on "The Moth" in United Kingdom and now works in the emergency department at a hospital in London.
"An epic challenge."
— Bear Grylls
“A brisk, panoramic view of peoples and lands.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Witty and wild, intrepid and inspirational, the book chronicles two parallel journeys: Fabes' physical cycling tour of many countries and his look at health across the globe...an entertaining and epic chronicle of a journey of extremes.”
— Tony Miksanek
Quietly powerful. Signs of Life is a pluck memoir. Fabes is a winning storyteller. During his jrouney, Fabes battled injuries, infestations, and Dengue fever. Yet his travelogue retains its bighearted humor.
— The Star Tribune
"A fever dream for armchair travellers, a dizzying, headlong, hilarious grand tour of six years on two wheels. I lost a couple of days to it and on emerging from its pages the world had become richer and more marvellous. Signs of Life deserves to become a classic of the genre."
— Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being
"What begins as a journey of self-discovery becomes a thoughtful exploration of humanity. Fabes is great company and makes riding bicycles seem like the best way to see and understand the world."
— Ben East, The Observer
"An inspirational journey of humanity and humility. Fabes has redefined the medical memoir."
— Nathan Filer
"A clever and entertaining book. Fabes has a gift for describing landscapes … but he isn’t afraid to share those lurid medical anecdotes we all crave."
— Jonathan Drummond, The Times Literary Supplement
"Stephen has managed to beautifully combine travel, medicine, life and loss all in this epic tale of adventure. It made me smile, laugh, want and cry. Bloody brilliant."
— Matt Morgan, author of Critical
"I absolutely loved this book. Full of rich, vivid descriptions of people and landscapes, interwoven with wisdom and compassion."
— Mike Carter, author of One Man and His Bike
"The humour, humility, and self-awareness reminded me at times of Eric Newby. Local history, politics and anecdote are woven together, introducing the reader to a world most will never encounter, and I for one felt richer for the experience. It’s hard to believe this is Stephen’s first book; I sincerely hope it’s not his last."
— Sam Jones
"A charming, human story of resilience, adversity and compassion, with a good dose of dry humour."
— Lois Pryce, author of Revolutionary Ride