When I was a little kid, I always pretended to be a great explorer, hacking my way through some thick, impenetrable jungle (minus the machete) or a sea captain, crossing the Arctic (Buffalo is pretty close). Now that I’ve grown up (so to say), I have not lost that drive to be a real explorer in some real, remote corner of the globe. But it seems that the day of explorers like Roy Chapman Andrews, Hiram Bingham, and Howard Carter, Pith helmets, machetes, and magnifying glasses are gone. Is exploration dead? The once mysterious mountaintop city of Machu Picchu is now a tourist hotspot. Every part of the world is on a map. So it is, right?
Roy Chapman Andrews on an Expedition. His Death Marked the End of Large-Scale Exploration.
A simple answer is no. Thre are still vast parts of the world where few people have and ever will visit. Take Patagonia, the Sahara, the Amazon, and the Himalaya as just a few examples. Just in 2005 a new cave large enough to fit a jumbo jet was discovered in Venezuela. But what about that abomination, adventure tourism. Tourists are now flocking to sites of National Geographic pictures to get a photo op of there own.
In fact, adventure tourism has really sparked the surge in exploration again. People are now going places and asking their guides, where does that river lead? Is there anything on the other side of the mountain. How far does this plain stretch?
Micro-exploration is a great, local, cheap way to explore. You will be amazed at some of the places you can find in your local nature preserve or park. But if money is what you need and adventure what you want, second-hand gear is perfectly alright. You don’t have to go corporate. Jungle explorer Tahir Shah buys all of his equipment from the classifieds. Instead of commercial boats, take a freighter out to sea. Bio-exploration is another great alternative. Prominent biologist Edward O. Wilson believes that 90 percent of all insects are still not discovered.
Even if you can travel, be prepared and plan out your trip. You can still visit those hotspots, but declare that you want to find a long forgotten oais and, to borrow Nike’s phrase, just do it. Never feel that something is childish or stupid. Being mature is overrated (let me tell you).
If you aren’t ready to take the leap out into the unknown or just don’t have the funds. Take some armchair adventures. I suggest books like Jim Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams, or National Geographic’s Worlds to Explore. These stories will inspire you and give you ideas for some adventures of your own. Tracking an old explorer’s path is another great way to have adventures. Just, have fun with it. theexplorerschool.com