“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled.” – Mohammed
This is one of my favourite quotes; however maybe in the modern era, relating how you travelled is more relevant. Is it possible to still make the journey the true adventure? Flying has taken a great deal of the ‘journeying’ experience out of travelling; it is merely an inconvenience most travellers today simply endure.
Many tourists only have a two-week holiday each year, the first port of call when planning the annual trip abroad is the internet or travel agents. These two resources generally allow booking flights, cruises, and possibly trains or overland travel by vehicle. This suits most single destination travellers, as there is not enough time for them to spend savouring the journey, all their energies are directed towards enjoying the destination.
True Vagabond spirit
Independent travellers often spend a great deal of their time on extended trips but still normally have a specific itinerary in mind. Round the world trips are usually booked in advance, as airlines only accept a trip for less than twelve months. This is hardly conducive to the spirit of true ‘journeying’.
There are still some that embrace the concept of ‘slow travel‘ using trains, boats and cars to travel from destination to destination. This is possibly where the true spirit of ‘journeying’ can be found, it enables the person to stop off and explore anywhere along their chosen route. There maybe an ultimate, planned destination, but there is enough flexibility to allow the traveller to fully enjoy the chosen route.
Is the true spirit of adventure, finding the unexpected where it is least expected? The ‘golden age’ of discovery is long past; Columbus, Magellan, Cook and Marco Polo have names engraved on the pages of history for good reason. They embodied the spirit of exploration and journeying, it is hard to imagine how it must feel being the first to explore a completely undiscovered land. I wonder what they would have thought about the modern convenience of flying, they probably would have embraced it wholeheartedly, but elements of the travel experience will be lost.
The opportunities for explorers to explore anywhere new or make a discovery are now limited, there are however still many possibilities for adventure. Climbing in the Greater Ranges, unexplored forest regions and caving or cave diving still offer the adventurous an opportunity to discover an unexplored place. They are however diminishing and involve some risks.
There are even opportunities for specific ‘adventurer’ challenges to be attempted; climbing the highest summit on each continent, reaching the two poles, even combining these two separate challenges which is known as the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’. Some purists even consider all fourteen peaks over eight thousand metres need including.
Achieving such incredible feats is beyond the scope of most us, not necessarily because we are incapable but more likely we lack the incredible drive required to raise funds and make the sacrifices required to continue chasing such dreams.
The journey is the adventure
This does not mean that we do not seek adventure, lack ambition to explore, or that there are always great risks involved. Adventures are relative, it is the spirit of exploration that is more important, and those possessing a suitable attitude will always find exciting experiences.
“Every journey has the potential to become epic; it is the mindset of the traveller that defines the adventure”
Many celebrity travellers have ‘journeyed’ around the World or across continents by any means but they include a full complement of film crew and support team, hardly the spirit of independent travel. I am not decrying their achievements, some are genuinely accomplished travellers, but ultimately it is merely about entertainment.
Some fulltime travellers that have been on the road constantly for several years are probably the closest to the ‘ideal’ of a modern nomadic nature. They still have an itinerary most of the time, but the lack of time constraints allows great flexibility enabling them to meander around any country or continent at their leisure.
The methods that used to circumnavigate the planet are mind-boggling, hiking, biking, sailing, in-line skating… probably and even segways; almost certainly one day soon! It does not need any great skill to travel in this way, determination of course, but many ‘ordinary’ people have managed extraordinary round the World trips.
These are the modern-day nomads and explorers, it is unlikely that new discoveries are about to be made, but they have adapted exploration to fit into the current state of the planet. There are very view regions of the planet which have not been mapped extensively, therefore discovering on their own terms the many amazing sights the world still has to offer has become the goal.
This maybe how epic journeys are now defined; spending time travelling slowly around the planet. Using different forms of transport, and visiting ‘offbeat’ destinations, increasing the chances of an adventure.
I have never personally experienced this form of freedom, travelling on climbing expeditions or shorter trips but all to specific predetermined destinations. A round the world trip is an ambition but the option will still probably be a year round ticket so whilst I hope to gain some freedom, most of the itinerary will require pre-booking.
It is possible I do have a nomadic spirit however, in the past I’ve used various forms of accommodation and transportation methods to aid in my travels. Apart from the obvious of camping, a hammock is always carried, couchsurfing and hitching are budget options also often employed. Combining these tried and tested methods with other overland options and some modern compromises should offer me or any other traveller with an all important feeling of independence and freedom.
Travelling in this way is almost certainly good for the soul, it will certainly immerse the traveller in the journey and is much more eco-friendly than merely flying around the planet. A nomadic spirit of the Bedouins and similar ethnic groups has a certain amount of romanticism attached. It is a lifestyle many of us yearn for, perhaps in some small way it can still be achieved even now.
I look forward to enjoying some greater experiences of ‘journeying’ in the future, where the destination is not the ultimate aim; it is just a part of the travelling experience.
“To the true traveller the destination is merely an excuse to make the journey”