After setting her sights on space exploration, a journey along the old trade route between Turkey and India persuaded author Kate Harris to opt for more earthly adventures—cycling the Silk Road, now the subject of her new book.

Shortly after midnight on an uncharacteristically cool July night in 2006, Kate Harris and Melissa Yule cycled toward the first in a series of checkpoints on their way from China to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).

They pedaled under a moonless sky, weighed down by 27 kilos of clothing, food, and gear, their reflectors covered in duct tape, their headlamps lighting the crumbling road before them. Because the pair lacked the required permits to legally enter the TAR, they ducked the guardrail.

When they worried they’d been spotted by the military patrolmen who guarded the outpost, they dove into a ditch, bikes and all. But luck was on their side that night, and undiscovered, they remounted and pressed on toward the Tibetan Plateau.

Harris’ recently released, lyrically written memoir, Lands of Lost Borders, follows the life of a modern adventurer, from her pony club days in Canada to graduate school at Oxford, to her two trips biking the Silk Road. In it, Harris starts not from a place of heartache or soul-searching, but one of general wonder, a point of view that abounds among female travelers but that the publishing industry often reserves for books written by men.