Friday, October 29, 2010

The Explorer & the Explored

Do expeditions benefit the explorer or the explored?  
The Intelligence2 debate hosted at the Royal Geographic Society posed this thought: Exploring is good for the explorer but not much good for those being explored.
Twitter Feed

With these questions in my mind, I set out to the RGS offices to attend a talk hosted on the topic of exploration.  Six guest speakers presented at the event which included Ed Stafford, Benedict Allen and a host of other well known authors, expedition leaders and explorers.

Each guest had ten minutes to present on a topic related to the above. Here are few highlights of the evening:



First up was Justin Marozzi who provided an excellent insight into the world of Herodotus.  I learned quite a bit about this historian in the 10min Justin spoke.  Enough to stir my interest in reading up on him.
Amazon UK: The Man Who Invented History: Travels with Herodotus by Justin Marozzi

Next up, Anthony Sattin gave us a good overview of the British age of exploration and highlighted Mungo Park and his expeditions in West Africa.
Amazon UK: The Gates of Africa: Death, Discovery and the Search for Timbuktu' by Anthony Sattin

I thought one comment from John Gimlette presentation was pretty good: The explorers road to greatness is often strewn with wrong turns.
Amazon UK: Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge by John Gimlette

One of the key comments I took away from the evening was Benedict Allen's opening line:  The prerequisits of an explorer is to report back.  Another quote from Benedict Allen: it's not about going somewhere & making a mark, its about letting somewhere make a mark on you.
Amazon UK: The Faber Book of Exploration by  Benedict Allen

Having just returned from walking the length of the Amazon, Ed Stafford wowed us with tales of adventure and the spirit of exploration.

The evening talks led me to think about independent overland travel and my perspective on exploration:

Who benefits?
The overlander or the people of that country the overland adventure is travelling through?
Is upsetting a community by driving on their land worth the personal exploration?

The above questions only have personal answers and are very much debateable.
In the IQ2 event, the question was asked to the audience:
Who benefits: the explorer or the explored?
From my angle in the audience it seemed that a majority of the voters indicated that the explorer benefited however my opinion might be skewed as I indicated that I thought that the explorer benefited more from the experience.

If I ask myself that question re. my trans-Africa trip:  Did I or any community benefit from my trip?
Tonight's discussion has clarified my thoughts: In my mind, my trip was a personal trip. I wanted to do it.  I did not have any noble ideas of fundraising or charity work.  This was my trip from the UK to South Africa overland.  The contributions I made were not personal but rather more generic via commercial trading i.e. I used my money to buy food, fuel and goods from each country, which in turn, hopefully made someone better off.  I gained valuable experience and I choose to report back.

What are your thoughts and motives for doing your trip?  Comments always appreciated.


Additional Reading:
A video & podcast from the evening is available.

I have saved the Twitter feed (Twitter search: #iq2explore) as a PDF document.  Makes very interesting reading and highlights many key aspects of exploration.