With his first child on the way, the 44-year-old author turned to the 2,700-year-old The Odyssey to guide him through one last adventure before he had to start changing diapers. For six months, he backpacked his way through the Mediterranean, retracing the 10-year journey of the fabled Greek warrior Odysseus from the battlefields of Troy to his home in Ithaca.

 

Huler consulted the vast and still-growing body of Odyssean scholarship to match his journey as closely as possible to Odysseus's trip to Hell (literally) and back. Though he had to make some creative swaps - he substituted Rome's catacombs for the halls of Hades, for instance - he tried to stay true to the classic wherever possible.

 

The Cyclops's cave on the Sicilian island of Trapani was fairly easy to find: It's at the end of Via del Ciclope (Cyclops Road). Likewise, sailors for two millennia have known the whereabouts of the Sirens' island. But not everything was as easy to find. Scylla and Charybdis? The only monsters threatening Huler's kayak off the coast of eastern Sicily were the oversized cargo ships.

 

A frequent contributor to National Public Radio, Huler is a highly entertaining travel companion with an oral storyteller's flair for humor. There's a hilarious scene in which he imagines how Odysseus's 10-year separation from his wife, Penelope, might have been different had they simply had e-mail. ("O. - I appreciate your excuses, but Nestor got home two years ago. Whither my sacker of cities?")