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Signs of Life

A Doctor's Journey to the Ends Of The Earth

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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.

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, Booklist 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, Booklist Reviews