It seems that we have run out of undiscovered lands and uncharted oceans. Technology has made the planet accessible. Only the remotest and most hostile places still hide their secrets. Where we cannot go, probes have. Discovery is a channel. Transportation is cheap. We can visit places in high-resolution, in 3D and in virtual reality, before we actually get there.
The Age of Travelling into the Unknown has passed.
Has it? …
… or are there some explorers left?
A few hundred meters wrote the brothers Wright into the history books. Today we need thousands and thousands of miles to get a frequent flyer bonus. Distance is no longer an issue. Humanity has sent its emissaries up the highest mountains and into the deep-sea abyss. The new frontiers are interplanetary and interstellar with distances so vast that it seems mankind is starting its journey all over again.
Where does this leave us? What is there left to explore, on our own?
Well, plenty. If we want to, and that is a very big if.
In my experience almost everybody likes the sound of the word adventure, but when it actually comes to taking risks things look different. While travelling I found that the most common mindset is that of a tourist, someone who sightsees but does not connect to the environment in any way that challenges ones own beliefs or habits. I have chosen that mindset often enough to know its particular charm. You do not have to think and there is always someone to complain to. The tourism industry is built around ever new ways of sheltering and protecting its customers from local realities.
Here the tourist and the explorer part ways.
To become an explorer is a choice, to do things differently and to open your mind to the unknown. As easy at it sounds, in my experience it is not, as it is not a switch but a process that takes time and has consequences.
Off the main stream you have to think for yourself, as there is no preset path any more, that has been approved, chosen and supported by your peers. It takes time, slows you down and gives you ideas that may conflict with what you once knew. As an explorer you see for yourself.
I lived in different places, experienced different cultures, and they changed me. Each time a small step. For years now I oscillate between sedentary routine and nomadic spontaneity. I guess, once I had seen some of the world, I felt how much more there is to see, how many ways there are to do things, how relative local beliefs are and how numbing and cozy main stream can be.
Take it as an encouragement, take it as a warning:
I guess, being an explorer means to be a stranger in a strange land.