Adventure is not what it once was me thinks. Even as more of us set off for the ever more remote places of the world that are our holiday destinations these days we take so much of the world we profess to be escaping with us. Mobile telephones, laptops, ipods and yes even cameras all basically get in the way of being a tourist. Of course we are not tourists now we are travellers and travelling is a lifestyle image every bit as fashionable and marketable as Marlboro Reds or Louis Vuitton. More and more of us apparently want to get “off the beaten track” but only so far as it is not too dangerous and uncomfortable or even too off the beaten track. The Discovery Channel vacation of adventure repeats is all the rage with the right demographic and a GPS, satellite phone and TV crew seem as de-riguer for going somewhere now as a passport.
Anyway I digress but I am Jeolous that my long commitment to the cause of the vagabond no longer gets the impressed/shocked reaction it used to. I admit my own wanderings were not that far from the route now well trodden. But I trod it at a time when there were not that many people doing the same. And I started late by today`s standards. What must it be like to be a school teacher now with kids apparently travelling the world? I remember going back to school in September with the usual homework of “What did you do over the summer holidays?” We all told tales of parks and seasides; parents driving to dripping backwaters and for the richer kids the occasional two weeks in the sun on a Spanish beach. The same homework must nowadays contain such bile inducing name-drops as Kenyan hot air balloon safaris, polar plods with private air support, indigenous excursions to jungle cultures filmed but twice and sky-diving over Patagonian ice-caps while on weekend breaks from building day-care centres for blind, homeless lepers in the Buenos Aires slums. And all this before they`ve even done their A-levels!
There are no explorers now we are all travel consumers…every experience however extreme seems to come with a money-back guaranteeand itinerary now. Okay I lied, there is one. Benedict Allen is a true hero of our time; he makes TV shows and writes books yes. He even models clothes! But he also gets immersed totally in the places he travels; putting his body and mind to work, and at risk, crossing inhospitable terrain, meeting and really trying to understand indigenous people and learning to care about them much more than the fame it will bring him or the pride he could take in his line on the map. Of course I have been a fan for years but didn`t know much about him until I found his website. I saw that he had been to Siberut Island to learn and study the kerai or medicine men similar to those pictured above. My own trip was a trek, touristic and probably not that authentic but I was struck with the power of the place and learned enough to know I wanted to learn more. Now I know the logistics of visiting I aim to go back there one day and photograph more of these amazing men. I may not be able to get as “deep” as Mr. Allen but I care about these people, I made friends with one family of Mentawai particularly in my short time there and the more I learn about how their way of life is threatened the more I want to do to preserve it.