I had a big day at the Royal Geographical Society today, speaking as part of their Explore seminar weekend, on “Journey with a Purpose”. The last time I attended Explore was in 2002, shortly after I launched myself into a life of adventure, when ocean rowing was not even a glint in my eye and I was getting ready for an archaeological expedition to Peru. I was the “sponsorship organizer” for the expedition, i.e. the muggins on the team who didn’t know just what a tough call sponsorship is!
Explore was an amazing induction into the life of adventure –an intense series of talks from all kinds of luminaries of the world of exploration, sharing the benefit of their accumulated wisdom. I can still remember some of the presentations now – and my memory isn’t usually that good, so they must have made an impact.
And now, 7 years on, I was there again. All those years ago I would never have dreamed that I would one day be hearing Shane Winser, the esteemed and universally respected doyenne of the Expedition Advisory Centre, describing me as “one of the foremost female explorers” or some such thing – incredibly high praise, coming from someone who has seen more than her fair share of adventurers. In fact, I wasn’t sure how I’d live up to the generosity of her introduction.
But it all seemed to go pretty well. I only had a few minutes, which happily restricted the amount of nonsense I could talk. My theme was how to use an expedition to serve a greater purpose – as an advocate for a cause. I was extremely happy when Shane asked me to speak on this subject, as this year has seen a big evolution in me finding my voice as an environmental advocate, and condensing that learning experience into a 10-minute talk in an attempt to share with others such things as I may have learned was a very good process for me.
And I must have made some sense, because many of the members of the audience came up to me afterwards to say that my words had resonated with them. Different people picked up on different things that I had said, so even if not every person found everything useful, at least most people found something useful.
So that was very cool. Also extremely cool was getting to meet Michael Palin, the new President of the RGS. He gave his talk just after me, and I bagged him outside the coffee room to thank him for the wonderful audiobooks that kept me entertained for so many hours at the oars this summer. My favorite Palin books:
2. Full Circle
He was most gracious, and agreed to be photographed with me. He also asked if I would like to lecture at the RGS. Yes please – was my most emphatic reply! So maybe one day….I also confided in him that one day I want his job – to be paid by the BBC to go travel the world and write books about it. Would be amazing if that dream came true.
In case I got too carried away with my big dreams, tonight I decided to put things in perspective by going to the movies for a dose of disaster – 2012, which was released yesterday. But I’m tired now, and back to the RGS early in the morning for some lectures on expedition technology. Although I reckon I know a thing or two about it, there’s always more to learn. So review for 2012 coming tomorrow.
P.S. An afterthought – I was only able to stick around for a few of the other lectures today, as I’m in the thick of organizing our Big Ben to Brussels walk, but of the other ones I heard, all seemed to include some element of advocacy or research – often relating to environmental issues such as extinction of species or climate change. So now that “adventure” is what so many travel companies are selling – and it still baffles me how you can sell a prepackaged and prescheduled “adventure” – maybe the people that we would once have called adventurers are now classified as expeditioners to differentiate them from the tourist-adventurers. And explorers? Do we have anything left that can feasibly be explored? Or are explorers now also an extinct species – or at least on the endangered list?