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Erika Warmbrunn, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award and author of Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman's Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China and Vietnam, offered the Penn community a glimpse into her unique travel experience.

Nearly 30 members of the Penn and Philadelphia communities gathered in the rooftop lounge of Hamilton College House Monday night to hear an anecdotal narration of Warmbrunn's journey, visually enlivened by a montage of slides.

Hamilton College House Faculty Fellow Michael Gamer offered welcoming remarks and introduced Warmbrunn, his high school classmate.

Gamer said that he was not at all surprised to hear that the current Broadway stagehand had previously taken such a trip, which culminated in the release of her book.

"Erika was one of those people who always traveled and found ways to travel," said Gamer, an associate professor of English. "She has an amazing will and amazing focus."

Warmbrunn was working in a travel bookstore in Seattle in 1993 when she decided to embark on a journey across Mongolia, China and Vietnam.

Over the course of eight months, Warmbrunn and her bike, whom she affectionately called Greene, traveled 8,000 kilometers together.

In a given day, Warmbrunn would cover between 30 and 100 miles of land depending on the terrain and conditions.

"I like wide open, empty space," Warmbrunn said.

"A bicycle is freedom, a bicycle is independence, a bicycle is self-sufficiency," Warmbrunn said. "It took me places I didn't know I wanted to go."

Warmbrunn described the experience of travel as "broadening the framework in which you see and understand everything around you."

Warmbrunn also described the creative process involved in producing her book Where the Pavement Ends, published in March 2001 by Mountaineers Books in Seattle.

Working in a travel bookstore, Warmbrunn said she had a vague idea of writing an account of her trip prior to setting out. However, not until after her return did she actually begin formulating her narrative.

She said she approached the daunting task of conveying her experience by typing her travel journal in its entirety onto the computer and then treating the project as "one big editing job."

She expressed a particular interest in language and communication in travel. Along the course of her trip, Warmbrunn left her bike in a nearby city and taught English for a month in Arshaant, a small village in Mongolia.

Before her talk, Warmbrunn expressed her hope that her account of her own experiences would provide inspiration for others to pursue their own adventures.

And apparently, she did exactly that.

"I'm in awe," College sophomore Debbie Fromstein said. "I want to do something just like this."

House of Our Own bookstore provided copies of Where the Pavement Ends for Monday night's booksigning and additional copies will be on sale at the store located at 3920 Spruce Street.

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