Almanac (Travel) Book Review: ‘The One That Got Away’ by Ken Haley






The last travel book I read was Riding The Iron Rooster, Paul Theroux’s rollicking tale of travelling through China by train – and that was some twenty years ago. I am not certain why, but I have never been an avid reader of other people’s tales of travel. Maybe it is because, for me, one of the joys of travelling is experiencing the sights and sounds of new locations without pre-conceived ideas or expectations. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked upon Ken Haley’s The One That Got Away. I also bore some reluctance to revisit 2020, the pandemic year which I could quite easily put behind me.         


Haley is a Walkley Award-winning journalist, editor, and author, who also happens to be a paraplegic. As such, his view of the new places he visits is unique, and he makes this point early in the book: “…ground level provid(es) a superior vantage point to any other for seeing how the ordinary people of any country, or city, town or village, pass their days.” There is an occasional reference to the difficulties encountered in being wheelchair-bound – the search for accessible public toilets, the difficulties posed by narrow doorways in hotels, slowly traversing uneven paths. But such is Haley’s gift for immersing himself, and subsequently the reader, into the journey he is undertaking, that the wheelchair is only a peripheral part of the story. It is thrust back into our consciousness only in rare moments, such as when Haley is hauled aboard a truck or bus by fellow travellers.


The epic trip Ken Haley undertakes sees him journey from Canada to Cuba to Florida and back to various nations across the Caribbean, such as Dominican Republic, St Vincent, and Grenada. The book is an interesting, and often amusing, portrait of quirky local characters and odd-bod fellow travellers with whom he inevitably comes into contact. All of them are trying to make sense of a pandemic which is closing in on every corner of the globe. While attempting to keep abreast of events back home (in Barbados in September he catches a BBC story which mentions Victoria will soon be emerging from lockdown) he determinedly ploughs on, refusing to allow the pandemic to permanently derail his journey. The way Haley manages to keep about him his wits and his sense of humour given the obstacles which are constantly put before him – most of them related to Covid – is the defining feature of the book.


Haley also has a keen and sympathetic eye for the history of the islands he visits – many of them battling endemic poverty and confronting cruel histories involving slavery and violent and bloody confrontations. He has the curiosity of the seasoned traveller, and we are kept constantly involved by the no-fuss, entertaining, and ultimately uplifting manner in which Ken Haley relates his story.


“What on earth was he thinking?” This was one of the two questions which I asked myself constantly while reading Ken Haley’s latest travel book The One That Got Away: Travelling In The Time Of Covid. But so engaged was I by Haley’s book that the other question I posed was: “Why not?”



You can purchase Ken’s book from his publisher Transit Lounge HERE.



The book is also available through Readings, Booktopia, and all good bookshops.



Extracts from the book, reviews and press releases can be read HERE.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Great review Smoke! The Zoom conversation with Ken, and Michelle Grattan and Margaret Simons yesterday, was very entertaining and enlightening. It provided a rich insight into the determination and positivity that Ken displays confronting and tackling all aspects of his life, and his resilience as an intrepid traveller demonstrating disability is no hinderance to achieving your goals.

  2. Smokie and Colin both:

    Humble thanks from the author for your appreciative comments.
    When you’re in the hands of two such acclaimed journalists as Michelle Grattan and Margaret Simons, and all you have to remember is what you did on holiday, the bar of difficulty is not set all that high.

    As for the book itself, you will both recognise that, like all books, it will stand or fall solely on its own merits.
    My offer before the Zoom event to sing Dave Grohl’s entire back catalogue was ruled out on gorunds of taste and lack of time; and who am I to say they were wrong to do so?

    If your encomiums result in more members of Footy Almanac’s expansive and well-read family picking up my book, I am willing to nominate you both for a 2022 Nobel, and I’m not overly fussed about categories. Sports. Literature. Peace. PS: Does anyone have Oprah’s phone number???

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