In 2019, there were 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals globally – and, given that the planet only holds 7.7 billion humans, this figure alone suggests that a lot of us are travelling. The World Tourism Organization reports two major motivations for this – “travel to change”: the quest for local experiences, authenticity, transformation and “travel to show”: the desire for Instagramable moments and destinations.
I think both trends are fuelled by curiosity about the unknown, the unfamiliar. Humans have always looked for new experiences, ways to live, things to show to others. Travel magazines are strewn with articles about visiting “overlooked” and “unknown” places – and this curiosity has a long history.
Throughout his Antarctic explorations, Apsley Cherry-Garrard yearns for “unknown” places. Mary Kingsley describes the “sheer good pleasure” of canoeing down an “unknown” West Africanriver by moonlight, and delights in places “not down” on maps. A character in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness describes how “inviting” the “blank spaces on the earth” seem and tells us about his hankering for “the biggest, the most blank”.
Philosophy can also be about exploring the unknown. In one of his groundbreaking books on idealism, 18th-century Irish philosopher George Berkeley likened his investigations to a “long Voyage”, involving difficult travel across “wild Mazes of Philosophy”. Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume offers similar reflections halfway through his most radical sceptical work A Treatise of Human Nature.
Travels on a ‘boundless ocean’: Scottish philosopher David Hume.
He imagines himself as a sailor who has struck shallow water, narrowly escaping shipwreck. Safety tempts him to remain perched on the rocks, rather than venturing out onto “that boundless ocean, which runs out into immensity”. Yet Hume decides he will put out to sea again, in the same “leaky weather-beaten vessel”. Continue reading
He contracted malaria, dodged bullets with government soldiers in a war zone and was jailed for several days near a small village because police didn’t believe him when he explained who he was.
Adventure traveller Mario Rigby also tested the limits of his physical and emotional stamina when he trekked 12,000 kilometres northward across eight African countries for two years, by foot and kayak. He started in late 2015 and finished in February, taking an eastern route from South Africa to Egypt.
Africa, he says is a place that has been depicted by the West only as dangerous, violent and beset by poverty.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a recreational road and scenic drive through three American states. It roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents. Today, people can enjoy not only a scenic drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping along the parkway.
When Aleksander Doba kayaked into the port in Le Conquet, France, on Sept. 3, 2017, he had just completed his third — and by far most dangerous — solo trans-Atlantic kayak trip. He was a few days shy of his 71st birthday. He was unaccustomed to wearing pants. He’d been at sea 110 days, alone, having last touched land that May at New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay. The trip could have easily ended five days earlier, when Doba was just a few hundred feet off the British coast. But he had promised himself, when he left New Jersey, that he would kayak not just to Europe but to the Continent proper. So he stayed on the water nearly another week, in the one-meter-wide boat where he’d endured towering waves, in the coffinlike cabin where he spent almost four months not sleeping more than three hours at a stretch, where he severely tried his loved ones’ patience in order to be lonely, naked and afraid. Then he paddled to the French shore.
The Venetian life resides within the city’s hundreds of canals and diverse architecture. This short documentary by directors Olvier Astrologo and Nils Astrologo immerses us in the historical and hidden places of Venice, Italy, to reveal ancient folk traditions.
Yvan Bourgnon of Switzerland sailed his small 6.5 meter (~ 21 foot) catamaran 55,000 kilometers, around the world, in 220 days on the open water. As the the little sport catamaran didn’t have a cabin or on-board accommodation, the adventurer slept exposed to the elements.
Bourgnon documented his voyage and its ups and downs with his camera.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety. With that said, the vast majority of people are good. Recognize the fear mongers. Be properly informed. Be aware of your surroundings. Be respectful — you are a guest in their country. Don’t attract unnecessary attention — you probably already stand out enough.
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