What are some of the responsibilities of the explorer?

Julie We are so interconnected. It’s critical to recognize that the actions we take at home impact remote areas, which most people never have the opportunity to see. It’s important to show the public the beauty of these areas but also the risks that these places face.

Jean It’s part of our responsibility to do our homework. You have to try to understand the local population. It’s easy to arrive and look through the eyes of your own culture, but it’s important to follow the local rules.

Wade Explorers who explore just for the sake of movement sometimes fail to understand the peoples and the places through which they move. I was once hired as a guide to walk the Darién Gap with a British journalist who planned to walk from the tip of Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. He’d been walking along the Pan-American Highway for a year and a half, and he knew absolutely nothing about the land through which he moved. He didn’t speak a word of Spanish, and he referred to his journey as an “ongoingness into a never-endingness.”

Bruce Wade, I agree with you. I hate the verb “do” or “done” when applied to travel. As in “I did India.” I much prefer the word “learned.” The actual travel is only part of the experience. Reading and learning before you go and when you come home is also very important.

What motivates you to explore?

Colin For me, it’s about meeting new people, having new personal challenges. As a kid, my dream was to get a little sailboat and sail across the ocean. When I was 19, I bought that boat and spent the next five years exploring the South Pacific. That was a real eye-opener. That first sailing journey made me intrigued about the world we live in, and it all evolved from there.

Julie I grew up mostly on military bases, and my parents weren’t that into nature, but I went camping with Girl Guides, which sparked my interest in the outdoors. Then I moved to the West Coast for my graduate degree. I was so close to the mountains and the oceans, and it snowballed from there.

Wade My explorations are driven not by physical geography but by intellectual curiosity. My recent explorations have been of Tibet, the science of the Buddhist mind and the wayfinders of Polynesia. I’m interested less in where they went in their sacred canoes and more in how they got there and what their knowl­edge of navigation tells us about a different way of being, about a different way of thinking. These are explorations that really stretch your imagination, your soul and your spirit as much as the physical act of getting there.

Jean I don’t think of myself as an explorer but as a storyteller. My mission is to draw attention to our impact on the world. I go where my mission tells me to go. Right now, I think the real challenge facing humanity is the access to fresh water, so I will go to Africa and Asia and South America to see what we’re doing to address this basic need.

Why is exploration appealing to the rest of us?

Bruce To me, the foundation of exploration is curiosity. Now that I’m a father, I can see how innate this is in my young boy.

Colin I think it’s inherent in all of us. As far back as we go, people have been exploring the world. And though expeditions like going to the poles or to the top of the highest mountains make the mainstream press, exploration is really about challenging yourself and experiencing new things. Whether you’re in your vegetable garden or in a park you’ve never visited, it’s all exploration.

Meagan Because there are so few virgin areas out there, the point nowadays is to explore what you’re capable of doing. Everyone seems to be seeking his or her own adventures. We want to explore the depths of the ocean and the strangest, most far-off points of the earth to see for ourselves what the world is made of.

What is your advice for the amateur explorer?

Wade First of all, I love the word “amateur” because it comes from amare, the Latin word for “to love.” In our wanderings, I think we’re all amateurs.

Bruce Learn at least four words of the language before you land in a country. Read at least one book on the country on any subject. And if you ever get the opportunity to travel independently, I think that’s when you’ll really learn more about a place.

Julie Let a place seep into you, so you can maximize what you take away from that trip.

Wade Above all, give more than you take. North Americans tend to be incredibly parsimonious with their hospitality compared to most peoples around the world. I think about the times we’ve been welcomed into a Tibetan hut or invited to an Indian wedding or given a bed on a rainy night. That’s not something to take for granted.

Write to us: letters@enroutemag.net