Huw Cordey from the BBC, wrote the above comment today in his article Adventure travel in the age of the online connection and I do agree with him, because travel with a (working) mobile phone isn’t exactly ‘off the beaten track’ is it?
Hew’s article centres around the increasing ‘connectedness’ of remote parts of the world and how this reduces the isolated and risky feeling that was once the hallmark of any genuine ‘finding oneself’ adventure.
When I first went ‘adventuring’ with VSO in Uganda back in 1997, mobile phones were in their infancy, so the (regular) mail box was watched with an obsessive eye. The feeling when confronted with an empty mail box was crushing, but it was this isolation that led to kind of freedom, an expansion of horizons, a broadening of minds to drag up a few cliches. Unfortunately it often also came with a loosening of the bowels, but that’s life in rural Africa for you.
But ten years on whilst working in Rwanda, I found a completely different story. As a RV (returned volunteer) I naturally caught up with the current crop of volunteers in Kigali, because they would know all the best places to eat (and party!). I was immediately struck by the connectedness of not only the volunteers with each other, but also with the ‘outside’ world.
The guys I met, (well actually they were all girls, not many English guys speak French apparently) all had laptops, mobile phones and some even had roaming Internet connections. Whilst I appreciated the positive effect this had on planning great parties(!), I lamented the loss of the soul searching during the long and lonely weeknights, living out in the bush. My experience ten years ago was very different.
During my first year in Uganda I lived in a remote village about an hours off road drive from the nearest ‘town’, with no running water and only sporadic electricity. I lived in a quiet and splendid isolation. Not that Africa is ever silent; no, I mean quiet in a no distractions kind of way. Completely surrounded with the simplicity of a raw existence in the bush where life can hang by a thread. Sounds difficult and sometimes it was, but it was this environment, devoid of normal chatter that really allowed my mind to wander.
And wander it did. I have written before about how Africa changed me for the better, but I worried about those girls. About whether they ever reached that fantastic awareness that comes when you are cut off from everything that you ever knew and you find out what you’re really made out of, what you are capable of.
So, although I agree with Huw in that you need to feel a little cut off to be on a true adventure, I still love the way that the Internet allows us to learn about all the fantastic places there are in the world. Even if they only end up on a bucket list of places to visit ‘one day’.
What do you think, does the Internet ‘spoil’ seeing a place for the first time with your own eyes?