Adventurers are a rare kind. How many can step away from the crowd and forge a new path all alone. You could get lonely. You might get lost, without a lifeboat or any chance of rescue. You could die of cold. You could fall out of the sky.
So many things could go wrong. Only a few people, a handful really, have the desire and also the motivation to encounter such odds.
What drives them: no idea. It’s not always fame. At times, it is just the thrill of seeing something new or experiencing something new or discovering a new place. Honestly, I don’t know.
What I know is the name of some such people
- Ibn Battuta: the poster boy for people who love to travel
- Hiuen Tsang: Chinese pilgrim who came to India to pursue his interest in Buddhism
- Marco Polo: an Italian who chronicled his journey to China and experience in Asia
- Vasco da Gama: portrayed as the first European to reach India by sea
- Christopher Columbus: portrayed as the European who discovered the Americas
A lot of research and preparation goes into such journeys. At times, the journey may have been undertaken in search of new places, resources or trade routes. Which means, the person did not have the information we have now.
Christopher Columbus, an Italian, went westwards from Spain to establish a sea route to India and ended up in South America.
Vasco da Gama sailed eastwards from Portugal with the same aim. The Portuguese managed to cross the dangerous and often lethal Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He eventually made it to India, unlike many others who had faltered at the Cape of Good Hope.
Their ventures were like modern-day start-ups, only of a different kind. Monarchs and rich people invested in their promise to find new trade routes. In these two cases, the investments paid off. Or, at least, we can assume they did.
There were many other such investments, which we are not aware of.
The closest modern-day equivalent I can think of is the race to colonise space, involving Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and many others.
Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to raise funds for such ventures. It’s difficult (to imagine) because today we know now what the world looks like, have established trade routes, built vehicles for transportation by road, sea and air. People have been to most places on Earth. Even to the deepest part of the ocean, which is about 13 kilometres below mean sea level.
The only place left to explore is space.
But this is a costly venture. Not even governments can afford this venture. So you can try to imagine the kind of money Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have. I am talking of billions of dollars here. They have more money than the governments of some small nations. You can’t spend all that money on cars, clubs and caviar. The only place you can blow up that kind of money is in space.
Back on Earth, modern-day advances have made travel very easy. You have flights, trains, buses and ships. Go to a travel portal. Book tickets online. All it takes is about 48 hours to reach the other side of the globe.
But even now, there are some people who like to do things the old-fashioned way. Just for the adventure.
Like my hero Freya Hoffmeister (lead image. Courtesy Freya Hoffmeister). She went around the continent of Australia on a kayak. Alone. ‘Freya Shakti’ or ‘Goddess of Love to the Seas’ became the second person to complete the feat, and also did it faster than her predecessor Paul Caffyn.
Close to 13,800 kilometres. 245 days. Alone.
Now, why would someone undertake a feat like that. Leaving a teenager back home with his dad.
When I learnt about her feat, I tried to find out more and came across a book by Joe Glickman, a journalist who had chronicled her journey in Fearless: One Woman, One Kayak, One Continent. It was a fantastic read. Plus, the photograph on the cover is stunning.
Do you want to ask why she does these things — Read her answers.
Such feats are often accompanied by tragedies. I learnt about one in the book by Joe. That of Andrew McAuley. He died while trying to cross the Tasman Sea. From Australia to New Zealand. A distance of around 1,600 kilometres. In a kayak. Alone.
The tragedy was that he was as close as around 30 kilometres from his landing spot in New Zealand when he made a distress call.
I keep wondering what must a person on a voyage like that be thinking when he realises that he may not be able to make it.
I have heard footage of that distress call. Several times.
And also, footage of him saying goodbye to his wife and son before embarking on his adventure.
I guess some people are just driven by some unknown force.