Nightborn Travel

Seeking Vistas Secret and Acclaimed

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

Happy Blogiversary to Me: Celebrating a Year with Nightborn Travel

In case you couldn’t tell, you know, from the title, it’s my first blogiversary with Nightborn Travel!

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From our trip to Bisbee. Is it a mine cart? Is it a toilet? NO – IT’S TOILET CART!

Instead of receiving gifts on this most special of occasions, I thought I would give a gift to YOU, dear readers, by sharing some of my learnings over the past year.

1) Open yourself up to traveling more.

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GIVE THE GRAND CANYON A HUG. (Safely.)

But you may say, Katie, I’m afraid of flying (well, I kind of am, too) or Katie, traveling costs too much money and even Katie, I don’t have anyone to travel with (I’ll address this in point number two).

Well, what you need to do, my friend, is broaden your definition of “travel”, I know I have. Traveling doesn’t always mean jet-setting across the globe, it doesn’t always have to be big. If you check out some of my other posts, you’ll see that most of them are about exploring my home state of Arizona and how I love every minute of it.

In fact, some of my favorite trips have been just a couple hours outside of my city.

Which brings me to my next nugget of wisdom.

2) Don’t feel weird about solo travel.

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When you travel solo, you can wear whatever hat you wanna wear.

 

I think we’re finally starting to shake off the stigma that doing activities by yourself like going out for a meal, seeing a movie and more recently, traveling, doesn’t make you a loner or anti-social, etc., etc.

Which is great, because it DOESN’T. Every person has a different idea of what makes them happy, especially when it comes to travel. And I don’t know about you, but as much as I enjoy company, I also enjoy me-time.

There are definitely benefits to solo travel too, like choosing what you want to do, when you want to do it. Super beneficial for someone like me who’s going to be stopping every five seconds to take a photo of something. Plus, it pushes you out of your comfort zone – I know I stop and chat with people a lot more when I’m traveling alone, something that I do less of when I’m with a group.

And guess what, solo travelers? People are doing it more, particularly millennial women, inspiring not only more women to travel but for travel-related businesses to think of safer ways for women to travel. A total win!

I mean, there’s still a lot of things that are hard to do alone, like an escape room or a three-legged race so keep those friends around because…

3) A good travel buddy makes any trip worth taking.

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Friends that cave together, stay together.

I’m gonna get sappy(ish), but you’ve already come this far so you might as well see it the whole way through.

I’ll spare you the whole “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” cliche, but if you’re traveling somewhere with folks, isn’t half the fun the people you’re with? Like when I think back to some of my trips with my Nightborn Travel pal, Aireona, a lot of my favorite memories are the goofy things that happened or that we said or did.

And while we’re just going full speed down that sappy road, I’m going to have to thank Aireona for inviting me on this blogging adventure! Without her, I wouldn’t even HAVE  a blogiversary to celebrate. Plus, she is an endless supply of travel wisdom and inspiration and I am SO glad to to call her one of my travel buddies.

So thanks for sticking with me for a year, reader dears. I hope you stay stuck, because I have so much more to share!

Travelers gonna travel,
Katie

Do’s and Don’ts for Travelers to Japan

How to Respectfully Experience Japanese Shrines and Temples

Nikko shrine (c) RDB 2017

  1. There are wells (purification fountains) on the way into shrines and temples, and if you rinse your hands, try to avoid touching the ladle anywhere but the handle, and pour used water into the gutter. You can also pour some water into your hand to rinse your mouth (don’t drink).
  2. If you want to worship at a Shinto shrine, when you get to the offering hall toss some coinage into the offering box. If there is a bell, ring it, bow two times, clap your hands twice, and then bow one more time.
  3. Don’t eat or drink anything other than water in the shrine or temple.
  4. Be quiet and respectful; these are holy places.

Being Polite In While Traveling by Train in Japan

The shinkansen (c) ABR 2015

  1. When waiting to get on the train, pay attention to the lines painted on the sidewalk, and be sure to stand in line.
  2. Don’t talk on your phone; if chatting with a pal, try to be quiet.
  3. If it gets crowded, take your bag off and hold it in front.
  4. If you have an assigned seat, make sure that is where you sit.
  5. Don’t be pushy, and make sure that you leave room for other people to get on and off the train.

How to Avoid Annoying Japanese People

Crowds in Japan (c) RDB 2017

  1. Read ALL the signs, especially when you are in a shrine or temple. Many will tell you where you can and cannot go, and what you need to do while in any area (e.g. take off your shoes, etc).
  2. Stand in line. This goes for lots of different places that you might not expect depending on where you are from. We even stood in line while hiking, and while that ad hoc happens in the US sometimes, it was not ok to move up in the line in Japan.
  3. Learn and use please (“sumimasen,” which really means excuse me) and thank you (“arigato”) in Japanese. When you are in a restaurant, it is not impolite to hail your waiter by saying “sumimasen.”
  4. Be quiet if you are in an Airbnb, because people live very close to one another, and the Japanese work day/week is very long.
  5. Be quiet and respectful in Onsens and follow all rules while bathing.
  6. Watch other people, and take note of their behavior. This can serve as your guide for how to act when you are uncertain.

Other Japanese Customs You Might Want to Know About (But Which Visitors Aren’t Expected to Understand)

Tokyo (c) RDB 2017

  1. Bowing. In Japan, there’s a complexity to bowing in which people of different standings bow to different depths. Bowing can also be casual or formal. Luckily, visitors aren’t expected to know how this all works.
  2. Gift-giving is another important but complicated aspect of Japanese culture. Generally speaking, people don’t open their gifts in front of the gift-giver, and whenever you receive a gift, you are supposed to return the favor. Again, however, travelers aren’t expected to do this all properly.

How To Handle A Migraine While Flying

(Complete with funny stock photos to help us cope, cause migraines suck.)

I’ve suffered from migraines since sixth grade (that day has left quite an impression on my memory), and since then, getting a migraine while flying somewhere has been my nightmare. While traveling home from a work-related trip to NYC recently, my nightmare came true, and unfortunately, all the online resources that I could find were on how to prevent migraines while traveling, rather than what to do when it happens!

Migraines suck!

So, I wanted to put together a resource for other travelers with this problem, just in case any of you too find it too late to prevent this debilitating event on a travel day. Some of this comes from my own experience with this problem, but some of these tips also come from responses that I got when I was desperately looking for advice and support while I tried to figure out how to get home despite the migraine that hit me.

Going for a walk helps me alot.

First off, do what you need to do to treat your migraine. The number one thing is to be sure you have whatever meds work for you, be that prescription or over-the-counter. For me, what has been helpful has been taking Excedrin right away, then chugging a ton of water, eating some protein immediately, and then going against all advice and NOT laying down in the dark. Instead, keeping myself extremely hydrated, I put on my sunglasses and tried to go for a walk. I know that sounds super weird, and I doubt it will work for everyone (or anyone else?), but it has been extremely helpful for me to experiment with combinations of other people’s strategies in order to find something that works. I’ve listed more ideas at the end of this post, coming from people’s suggestions from the group that supported me through this experience. You can give these a try.

Follow this birb’s example and HYDRATE!

Second, decide if you should fly or not. InternationalCaty reminded me that flying can make headaches (and thus, probably migraines as well) worse, and that it was worth asking the airline if there was a chance to move my flight to the next day. While I didn’t end up doing this, I think this is great to keep in mind. You may want to keep a little extra money in your budget for a last-minute rest day near the airport if it will give you some peace of mind. Furthermore, on this note of deciding whether you should wait a day to fly if a migraine hits you, some former/current flight attendants mentioned that if you look too sick to fly, you may be kicked off the plane. This makes sense, for everyone’s safety.

Eat some protein!

Third, if you do decide to go, or the migraine hits you mid-flight, you should let the flight attendant and the people sitting around you know what is happening. For one, this will let everyone know that you aren’t contagious, and I think it will put you at ease to some extent if things really go downhill, because your row mates will already know what’s up. Furthermore, the flight attendants will appreciate the heads-up and they might also be able to help make you more comfortable.

Some caffeine and sleep can help out.

THINGS FOR MIGRAINE SUFFERERS TO TRAVEL WITH

  • Migraine meds
  • Sleep mask
  • Earplugs or headphones with some calming white noise (I personally love the sound of rain and it really calms me down while blocking out other sounds)
  • WATER! (If you have a reuseable water bottle, you can drink from it before security, dump it out, and then refill on the other side)
  • Protein (I always try to carry protein bars with me, and this is just helpful in general, migraines aside)

Garlic is magic… probably not available in the airport, but… you never know, I guess.

SUGGESTIONS FOR SIDE TREATMENTS FOR MIGRAINES (After you take your meds, or if you are stuck without them) AS SUGGESTED BY SOLO WOMEN TRAVELERS ON FACEBOOK

  • Chug water, eat protein, go for a walk
  • Drink a Coke (the person who told me that this helps her says this HAS to be a real Coke and it cannot be diet), lots of people suggest drinking caffeine in general
  • Drink something with electrolytes
  • Put salt on the palm of your hand, lick off, and drink 12-16 oz of water
  • Head/neck and foot massage
  • Try to meditate or sleep
  • Eat garlic
  • Try sinus/allergy medicine (as long as it doesn’t interact with your other meds or any allergy, etc that you may have)
  • Notes on Accupressure from Jackie Monkiewicz:

    “I primarily use the ones on my temples, the base of the skull, and between the webbing of my thumb & forefinger. Sometimes I’ll supplement with the sinus trigger points, because those can be involved.

    But other migraineurs use other points.

    A trigger point is “active” if it hurts when I squeeze it. Sometimes there’s a little knot of balled angry muscle.

    I actually can’t find these points when I’m not having a migraine.

    The book I first read about them in said to squeeze the absolute shit out of them. That the more it hurt, the more likely it was that they would provide relief. I’m not sure that’s 100% true, but based on trigger point therapies I’ve had for other issues at physical therapy, I can report that generally the therapist who really whales on the trigger points does get the best results.

    The temple points actually make me feel nauseous when I’m really pressing on them in the middle of a migraine.

    The base of the skull ones are hard for me to get, because I have a lot of muscle back there. But I can also feel this huge band of angry muscle bulging across the top of my neck, so I know when they are active.

    Airplane chairs actually provide decent purchase for reaching them, but I’ve also stopped at airport massage places and basically begged them to just please fix my neck.

    And I assume acupuncture on these points would be beneficial, but alas, it’s not practical for air travel.”

    For more info on this: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Acupressure-Points-for-Migraine-Headaches

Expedition South Island: Day 5: Mishaps and Accomplishments on Stewart Island

Oban (c) ABR 2017

Got an early start this morning so that I could make the two hour drive from Te Anau to Bluff, where I caught the ferry over to Stewart Island. It was nice to drive without traffic for a few hours, but when it is dark on the roads in New Zealand, it is DARK. Just you and 20ft of road, twisting off into the blackness. It was pretty mesmerizing at times, especially when the fog started rolling in.

My little fantail friend (c) ABR 2017

The ferry over to the island was less eventful, because the weather was good and the ride was short. But walking into the small town of Oban (population 400 according to the ferry captain) was interesting. The town is so small, and most of the restaurants are closed for the winter right now, but as with other small islands I have been to, the town hotel kept things lively. It was the only place to stop in for food at this point. I had my first real meal in several days there- sea food chowder and a fruit crumble, because sadly, there were none of the famous oysters available.

The stairs I fell down (not all of them) (c) ABR 2017

Feeling utterly full, I set right out onto the trail. It’s a different kind of hiking here, all through the dense rainforest, and depending on the trail, down one of Oban’s few roads, which are narrow and thus, somewhat uncomfortable to walk on. At one point, a little fan tail started following me down the trail, and he even let me crouch down to get a good look at him. Apparently, however, he draws the line at picture taking, because as soon as my camera was out he flitted off. Only to start following me again when I was walking.

(c) ABR 2017

Unfortunately, besides the birds and forests, another mainstay of the trails near town are stairs, with slippery, wooden frames. I ended up sliding down quite a few of them at one point, and I landed right on my palm. I’m pretty sure I lost my trusty sunglasses at that point too… but it took me hours to notice because the pain in my hand was enough to leave me wondering if I had broken it. There was not much else on my mind when I got back to my feet. Luckily, after about 5 hours, my hand is looking better and has more mobility, so I think I just managed to bruise it badly.

(c) ABR 2017

I took about a 45 minute break at the hostel to cradle my hand and look up things about bruised palms and broken wrists on the internet, and then I decided I couldn’t miss this opportunity to explore Stewart Island anymore. So, with my hand held up for circulation, I set back out, just planning on meandering for a couple of hours until it was a respectable time for dinner. Instead, I ended up hiking ~10km in a race against the trail signage. One part of the trail said 8km, 3hrs, I did it in half the time. My legs weren’t even tired.

In the end, I guess today wasn’t half bad. Sure, I lost my favorite sunglasses, but I am pretty sure my hand isn’t broken, and I’m consistently breaking times on the longer walks here, which feels good.

Wanna know a great place to see before Stewart Is. on an epic NZ roadtip? Day 4!
How about exploring Christchurch before leaving for home? Day 6!

Expedition South Island: Day 4: Fiordlands Blew My Mind

Miles Hiked: ~3
Time Hiking: 1.5hr

I think it’s clear from the little map above, I did a ton of driving today! I had no idea how far Milford Sound was from Te Anau (little planning oversight there), but my goodness, was it worth it.

Mountains above Queenstown (c) ABR 2017

First of all, the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown was a stunning continuation of the mountains that I was exploring in Mt. Aspiring (same colors and character). It was so beautiful with the sunrise, it was honestly a little disappointing to have to be driving. I wanted to stop and take pictures, but it just wasn’t much of a possibility (although I did pull over to snap the one above). My hitch hiker pals told me that Queenstown is a great place to visit, but sadly, I didn’t have time to stop. It did look like a town with a lot to offer though… how could it not with a mountainous backdrop like that!?

(c) ABR 2017

Anyway, Milford Sound is one of those NZ designations that everyone raves about, which, oddly, made me doubt that it could really be that great, ESPECIALLY after what I had already seen in Mt. Cook and Mt. Aspiring. But by all that is good… Fiordlands (the NP that is home to Milford Sound) is one of the most amazing places that I have ever seen. The mountains on the drive in, especially those surrounding the tunnel, are just unlike anything I’ve experienced before. You have forests and grasslands at their base, and then these mountains are just masses of rock. They are so steep that barely anything grows on them, but for mossy-looking plants that just make the whole place seem other-worldly. I honestly can’t rave about that place enough.

The famous Milford Sound (c) ABR 2017

As for Milford Sound itself, I really wanted to hike, so I missed out on the boat ride. It was really crowded down there anyway, and I just wasn’t feeling it with all the buses swarming everywhere. I am sure that those of you who have done it before would say that that was a mistake, but I wouldn’t have wanted to unwittingly miss out out on the hike I ended up doing.

Gertrude Valley. Doesn’t sound like much. Actually, I have no idea why I decided to turn down the short little dirt road that opened in to the parking lot for the trail, but it was an unbelievable experience. First off, note that this is a dangerous trail during avalanche season (which it is not currently), and that I didn’t do the steep part of the trail due to lack of preparation in terms of gear and time constraints. But the trail there took me through some fairy tale forests, and through vast grasslands between the mountains that I loved so much, right to the base of a peak that looked like the mountain above Fairy Pools in Scotland… but if it was on steroids.

If nothing else, this one day made this trip for me. I didn’t know that something this cool existed. I could spend weeks here hiking around.

The day before this I was in Mt. Aspiring, loving the red hills of the Southern Alps.
After hiking in Fiordlands, I was off to Stewart Island in the South.

5 Reasons You Should Visit Sevastopol Station Before It Plummets Into KG-348

(1) Unbeatable Views: So many space stations are just hanging out in the middle of nowhere, but not Sevastopol. This lovely city in the stars hangs right over the beautiful gas giant, KG-348. Nothing could go wrong in this romantic, breathtaking location.

(2) Your Safety Always Comes First: A lot of us are worried about safety when we travel, but Sevastopol Station is definitely not one of those destinations. There are always Emergency Phones close at hand, and a state-of-the-art medical center just a ten-minute train ride away. Of course, the safety of residents and visitors is a priority for Weyland, so you never need to worry if aliens are running loose or the AI suffers a head cold.

(3) Let APOLLO Handle the Logistics: The APOLLO AI runs Sevastopol, and will take care of all your concerns for you. From public transit to medical care, this AI will keep things sorted for you, and make sure you have nothing to worry about for the duration of your stay. Just sit back and relax with some light reading.

(4) Make Best Friends with a Working Joe: Most androids are made to look as human as possible, and that can be confusing. This is not a problem in Sevastopol, where Working Joes have been made to look like the robots they are. If you want to be best friends with one, feel free! They are really good at hide and seek, and great for thinning out the crowds when you need some space.

(5) Check Exotic Wildlife Off of Your Life List: You wouldn’t think that there would be much by way of wildlife in a space station like this one, and you wouldn’t be wrong. That being said, this is one of just a few places where you can snap a picture of a Xenomorph. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Navigating Ecotourism Certification

A guest post by Ryan Davila

Ecotourism is commonly defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). Simplifying this definition, ecotourism exists at the intersection of conservation efforts and sustainable development. While the idea of ecotourism sounds promising, there are many instances of ecotourism operators not delivering on the stated goals of the industry, creating concern that ecotourism is doing more harm than good on both conservation and sustainable development fronts.

(c) ABR 2016

(c) ABR 2016

In order to combat these potential negative impacts and identify those businesses that are living up to the promises of the industry, many international organizations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations have implemented ecotourism certification programs. Certification programs are defined as “a voluntary procedure that assesses, audits and gives written assurance that a facility, product, process or service meets specific standards. It awards a marketable logo to those that meet or exceed baseline standards set by the certification program” (definition by Martha Honey). The key word that I want to emphasize in this definition is the word “voluntary.” Explaining further, only the ecotourism operators that want to go through the certification process will be assessed.

(c) ABR 2016

(c) ABR 2016

The first programs were developed in 1985 and most focused on the environmental impacts. Many of these initial programs existed at the international level, meaning that these certification programs certified ecotourism operators all over the world. Fast forward to the present day, there are now roughly 200 ecotourism certification programs in existence. These programs are very diverse and, as mentioned, exist at virtually all geographic scales, ranging from international to local, and can include a variety of criteria and standards used to evaluate ecotourism operators. Although most, now include criteria that assess the socioeconomic impacts in addition to the environmental impacts of ecotourism.

(c) ABR 2016

(c) ABR 2016

Today, certification programs and certified ecotourism operators can be found all over the world in virtually every country (and to make is easy on you, you can find information on most online).  Some of the most common certification programs to look for include, but are not limited to: Green Globe, Green Key, Rainforest Alliance, Green Leaf, and TravelLife. If there are multiple certification programs available in a specific destination (which there usually are since an operator can apply for as many certification programs as desired as long as the operator is within the geographic scope of the project), it’s a good idea to see which operators are certified by multiple certification programs. This is not to say that these highly certified operators are the best in the destination, just that they are more likely to be dedicated to accomplishing the goals of ecotourism.

(c) ABR 2016

(c) ABR 2016

As ecotourism continues to grow and become more and more popular, it is important that we, as ecotourists, begin paying more attention to the impact that we have on both the communities and the natural areas that we visit during our expeditions. If we research certification programs and choose ecotourism operators that are certified at our destinations, we starting on the right path to becoming more conscious travelers.
*If you desire more information on ecotourism certification, please visit The International Ecotourism Society website (http://www.ecotourism.org/) or the DESTINET website (http://destinet.eu/who-who/market-solutions/certificates/fol442810).*

Ooh, Shiny: A Peek at the Tucson Gem Show

The Tucson Gem Show is a BIG DEAL. (And it’s not just gems – it’s fossils and minerals and other neato items.) It’s also considered one of the oldest and largest gem and mineral shows on this here planet Earth.

If you aren’t impressed yet, take into consideration that for a couple weeks it takes over downtown Tucson with vendors from all over the world (and it even has its own music festival).

Are you ready to race down to Tucson now? Are you putting the pedal to the metal? Well, hold your horses, because this year’s showcase is over. However, maybe some of these photos from the show can tide you over while you count down the months to the next gem show in late January of 2018.

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If you’re not particularly versed in gems and minerals (believe me, I’m 100% not), you can see that there’s definitely still some great photography (and people-watching) potential here.

Don’t miss it when it comes around again – maybe I’ll even see you there.

xx

Katie

The Story Behind the Name: Nightborn Travel

First, let me just come right out and say, Nightborn is named after a short-story by Jack London called The Night-born. Some of you may be familiar with the author, because of his famous book, The Call of the Wild. Many people also know that while he inspired people to be adventurers, and wrote many stories about the Alaskan wilderness, Jack London didn’t spend all that much time there, and he died an early death at 40. He was far from perfect, and the books that made him famous underscored a part of his life that was fairly fleeting, although it enchanted him and shaped his view of the world. I would venture to say that Alaska and places like it have done that for many people, including myself.

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(c) ABR

Despite his short-comings, Jack London has remained one of my favorite thinkers of the early 20th-century for one main reason. He shaped his life by his will and wit after coming to the determination that physical work was only temporary, and reliant on his physical health. On the other hand, he knew that his mind was not so fragile, and if he could make a living off of it, he would be all the better for it. The dogged persistence of Buck in The Call of the Wild is the perfect call-back to the kind of person Jack London himself was; he pursued his goal of becoming a writer despite his background and in spite of naysayers, and he got there. London was one of the most popular authors of his day, and he explored themes far beyond those of the Alaskan wilderness. He wrote about the human condition, and some of his most fascinating (and less well known) books examine the travesties of imprisonment and extreme poverty.

I won’t feign away from the fact that while London can certainly be said to be a product of the time (in other words, a least a bit racist and sexist), he had moments of clarity. One of those moments, in my opinion, comes from one of my favorite stories- The Night-born. What follows is my brief interpretation of the story; while I considered rereading it in detail to make sure I knew all my facts, I decided against it. I want to highlight what I remember of the tale, because that is what I named the site after, and it’s the principles that stuck with me that I want to shape the stories that we tell here and the information that we share.

(c) ABR

(c) ABR

The Night-born is essentially the story of a woman who never felt that she fit into the mold of society. In a time when the natural world was a thing to be dominated and destroyed, she felt called to the open and wild spaces. Practicality summoned her elsewhere, however, and the woman ended up married to a man in Juneau, toiling her days away in the city to make ends meet. One day, however, the following quote inspired her to follow nature’s siren call:

‘The young pines springing up, in the corn field from year to year are to me a refreshing fact. We talk of civilizing the Indian, but that is not the name for his improvement. By the wary independence and aloofness of his dim forest life he preserves his intercourse with his native gods and is admitted from time to time to a rare and peculiar society with nature. He has glances of starry recognition, to which our saloons are strangers. The steady illumination of his qenius, dim only because distant, is like the faint but satisfying light of the stars compared with the dazzling but ineffectual and short-lived blaze of candles. The Society Islanders had their day-born gods, but they were not supposed to be of equal antiquity with the….. night-born gods.’

I could write an entire blog post on this one quote, its historical context and its layers of meaning, but instead I will simply say, that it served as her inspiration to seek the life she was meant to live. She left the city and went into the wilderness, and there she found herself.

So, what do I love about this story, written by a man that many consider to be extremely flawed? Like London’s own life, Nightborn follows the tale of someone that followed their dreams, and in this rare case, that person is a woman. Though things are changing now, women were often barred from participating in many outdoor activities, and there are still those who are unhappy with the growing presence of ladies in the wilderness. But like the Night-born, we here seek to persist towards our dreams, and as women, we also want to step out and show our strength as explorers, and thinkers.

(c) ABR

(c) ABR

Call of the Unknown and the Roots of Adventure

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”
― Jack London

Most people who love to explore the outdoors are aware of some story about nature and tragedy. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer tells the well-known tale of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest, when a storm swept the mountain and killed twelve people, including experienced guides. The 2010 movie 127 Hours depicts the true story of Aron Ralston, a legendary Colorado climber, who became trapped in Blue John Canyon when a boulder crushed his arm. He narrowly escaped 6 days later, starved, and having had to cut his own arm off. The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer follows the historical struggles of the men who fought to conquer Eiger in the Bernese Alps. Within this book is the account of Toni Kurtz, a young climber who died on the mountain in 1936 while hanging, trapped from a rope a mere 60 meters from his rescuers. The list goes on, and on. For every story of triumph in nature there is always a poignant, tragic reminder that human life is fragile, and nature can take that spark as unfeelingly as ever.

So, why is it, in a world of Western comforts, complete with a universe of fictional worlds to explore from the safety of our homes, that people still go out to face the forces of the natural world? Why risk death to summit a mountain, or see the depths of an otherworldly canyon in the middle of the wilderness? In the past, when exploration was tantamount to national pride, the sacrifice of George Mallory perhaps made more sense, but in the modern world, in which nearly every corner of the Earth seems to have been explored, even this motivation has lost its relevancy. Yet, we keep exploring, and putting our lives on the line. Why? Why, when the planet has been mapped and we all know what can happen when we fail?

I believe that exploration is part of us, a siren call that led us from the heart of Africa to the rest of the planet. There is no other multi-celled organism that is as common and widespread as humans, and we cannot say that our modern technology is behind our ability to spread and adapt. Long, long before Columbus ever set out on his fateful journey to the “Indies,” North and South America were fully colonized by humans. There were intricate civilizations and a myriad of different cultures there; most of these women and men were descended from the brave people that dared to face the freezing weather of the north in order to cross the land-bridge between modern-day Alaska and Russia. Likewise, before Europeans struggled against the wind and waves of the Pacific, the ancestors of the Polynesian people faced the true unknown and ventured out into the water. Wave after wave, generation after generation, we humans have explored. We have put our lives on the line for uncharted vistas.

So, while people that still live by this code can be confounding, I think it is good to know that the spirit of the original humans lives on in us. We have thrived because we spread, we innovated, we adapted, and we explored. Perhaps continuing to tout the flag of our ancestors will help us, improve our happiness, and keep our minds open. Yes, the world has been mapped and named, but for each of us, Earth is a massive expanse of new people and places. Exploration is just as important as ever. It binds us to the real world, connects us to new cultures and perspectives, and keeps us feeling alive.

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