We´ve all seen those glam shots of popular destinations that dominate our Instagram feeds. Colorful sunsets and temples in Bali. Flawless beaches in the Maldives. The mist shrouded mountains of Machu Picchu.
These places are definitely stunning, but I often find myself wondering where did all the actual explorers go?
I grew up with the glossy photos and facinating articles of National Geographic at my finger tips. Khaki clad, sun burned travelers trudging through terra incognita to give us regular folks a glimpse of the wildest corners of our world.
Fast forward a few decades and I now live in a world obsessed with having the exact same photo as millions of other people of the same destinations.
It would be easy to blame this cultural trend shift solely on technology. Many would just shrug and point out that with the rise of satelite and drone mapping, there really aren´t many secrets left on the surface of the earth.
However as a card carrying member of that old school explorer´s club, I know for a fact this isn´t true.
There are still tribes of indigenous people who have no contact with the outside world. There are ruins from undocumented civilizations and new species of plants and animals being found regularly, to which people seem to just shrug indifferently.
Click, click goes the camera. Upload goes the same…tired…photos.
It would appear humanity has simply lost interest in the thrill of discovery that comes with confronting the unknown. The very quality that launched our species to new heights of civilization. Today, the expression of individuality through travel has given way to uniformity with exotic backdrops. (#adventure? Um…not exactly)
To be clear, I´m not disparaging major tourist destinations or the people who visit them. Hell, I´ve been to MANY of those places. They´re fun and there´s good infrastructure, which has put remote locations within reach of the average person. This in itself, is a beautiful thing.
I´m simply lamenting the loss of the explorers. That serious boot clad group of wanderers of the unknown who seem to either be in hiding or just approaching extinction.
A notion that breaks my heart.
Because it was this very group of travelers who laid the ground work for what has today become a social media led revolution of professional vagabonds.
It´s amidst these wide-eyed “Gram-travelers” of the modern era, I find myself asking: Where are my fellow discovery junkies at? The people who thrive on first ascents, descents, planting flags and first contact?
Did they all vanish into the pages of my now dusty and well worn National Geographics from childhood?
I´ve personally been first foreign eyes on undocumented ruins, first descent into a cavern system, off the map in uncharted areas of jungle and the first foreign contact with indigenous groups in remote parts of Africa and South America.
And from the pages of those precious experiences, here´s what I can tell you…
There´s no adrenaline sport on earth I´ve found that compares with the feeling of discovering the unknown. Of being off the map and coming back to civilization with nothing but a handful of stories to highlight your amazing adventure.
There is So…Much…More in this world worth seeing than just social media highlight reels. The wild corners of our world still exist in spite of technology and an apparent lack of public interst. So if you´re a fellow explorer like me with a craving for the uncharted recesses of our planet…
Just know you´re not alone.
In the meantime, you´ll find me wherever MapsMe ends and the real adventure begins.
And I encourage you to join me.