In spite of Covid and mediatised conflict, life on Earth has never been as easy for as many people. And yet optimism and happiness surveys don’t reflect this. What if adventure was the missing ingredient?
On French national radio, one early morning program is devoted to positive initiatives undertaken by individuals. Every day a new idea, program, startup, personal crusade … It’s brilliant and uplifting.
A few days ago, a gentleman from Picardie (an area in France’s far North) explained his work to get more hiking tracks maintained and signposted. His postulate was that, everytime he goes hiking, he finds new little paths that aren’t indicated on the map. He then visits the cadastral plan to identify the owner and, whenever possible to obtain proper identification on maps and signposting on location.
I should have felt excited. Maps often talk to me more to me than travel books. To my eyes, they hold more potential than someone’s preconceived point of view. And hiking, when that (apparently) psychopathic exercise hadn’t yet fallen prey to our kommandantur’s axing, was one of the greatest pleasures life could offer me. So the prospect of maps with more trails on them should have made my day.
But it didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The guy meant well, I’m sure. But his action was a typical example of a sickness that is bringing this country (among many others) to its knees.
Today, it’s no longer acceptable to get lost. Taking a track with no signage on it and having to backtrack 20 minutes later is not conceivable. Discovery is no longer encouraged. Blindly following signs (and social rating, and reviews) is the normal way to behave.
It’s not like bears, or mountain lions or cobras roam the lanes of Picardie, either. It would take a massive amount of
dumbf…ry poor planning to actually die in the wild in those areas. The worse that can happen to you is typically to encounter another insufferable French illness: aggressive dogs. And personal experience has shown that a solid stick and a few nightmares are sufficient to deal with those 😉
So what’s happened to our taste for adventure? Why is “security” taking center stage over the fun and excitement of discovery and exploration? What’s wrong with making our own maps, finding our own little paths and crossing out those that lead nowhere interesting?
Are we really heading towards a country where nothing will be uncharted, everything sanitised? Will we be allowed to get mud on our shoes in 10 years time or will the potential germs be too much of a threat to let us roam freely what hasn’t been paved and bleeched every morning?
Will every corner have to be lit? Every root in the path have to be leveled?
Can you think of anything more depressing?
Human beings are born explorers, just look at toddlers. That’s how we make sense of the world, not through force-fed classes. Exploring is our natural way of learning, not just terrain, but any topic. And that kind man on the radio wants to take that away from us.
Don’t get me wrong: he’s doing amazing work, but … I’d much prefer a map and a pen. Maintaining existing paths is a wonderful service to the community. Maintaining signage so that families can roam the hills in perfect safety is extremely valuable. But, to me, that doesn’t have to extent to every corner of the world. Please leave some paths uncharted, some terrain for the imagination and joy of discovery. In France at least, that’s quite literally the final frontier, the only place you are not following the path someone else wants you to. It’s stifling to imagine that last percent of true freedom could soon disapear. Hell is paved with good intentions, as we say here …
I started the year on DS by declaring 2020 would be the year of adventure for my photography. Obviously, Covid hasn’t made that simple. But exploration and adventure aren’t about simplicity. They are about reward.
Shortly after that first post, I grabbed a grological map of an area that’s been photographed and displayed many times on DS and found this extraordinary cave. Locals know it, access is quite easy, but it’s not signposted. So, instead of seeing hords of tourists, it only gets the occasional hiker. And the sensation of achievement after finding this (easy to find) place was just sooo much more than following the signs to the more famous landmarks of this hill. In a different league altogether. Why take that away from us?
Using the same map, my wife and I searched for sinkholes. On our first attempt, we came home empty handed. On the second, we bagged three. Mere holes in the ground. And not that photographically rewarding at that 😉 😉 But the joy of “discovery”, boy, that was something else altogether.
What will remain of that joy when everything has been charted and signposted and nothing remains a challenge?
High adrenaline sports and internal adventures are what. Both exploration of ourselves, maybe.
I’ll leave adrenaline rushes to junkies. But my other photographic adventure of the year has been to work in series rather than isolated random shots. That doesn’t sound like much risk taking, right 😉 For me it is. And risk & reward are the basis of every endeavor that hold any real value. Anything else is just a side dish.
My casual shooting just grabs interesting scenes that get post-processed individually with no arc or common idea linking one to the other. I’m good at that. Making meaningful series from these exposes me to something that doesn’t usually factor into my hobby: failure.
Mercifully, it’s unlikely some well-meaning bloke will turn up to chart my brain and implant ready-made solutions for creating the perfect series. Though AI-based solutions aspire to. Instant-photo for dummies 😉
Instead, I’ve asked (long suffering) people who know better than me for help (sorry NR, LE, PB, JW, J-CL, you were just are the wrong place at the wrong moment 😉 ) So, here, I don’t even have a map, but those good people are helping me build one for myself. And it’s much better that way.
We all need adventure tailored to our psyche, condition, and lifestyle. And the infinite number of ways of doing photography make it a great avenue for that. So what’s your photographic adventure? How do you find fun and reward of exploration in a secretless world?
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