Can female explorers save us from extinction?

The other night I went to the monthly lecture at Travellers Club and again the talk was by a young male explorer. Sad to say I’ve heard his story before, and each time it was the same: The hero conquering the earth. The male hero conquering the earth, to be more precise.

So why is it male explorers need to declare themselves the best, the fittest and the strongest adventurers on earth? And why, oh why do they only talk about themselves?

We definitely need more female explorers, because without them we could become extinct.

Let me explain: Recently, I sat next to a publisher of a famous US outdoor magazine. He sighed and said:

“Every day, as I receive letters and articles from people making expeditions and wanting to sell their material, I ask myself: “Hasn’t adventure come further than this? Is it still just white men with icicles in their beards dishing out the same old silly story?”

I couldn’t agree more. As no doubt do many people in the extreme sports and exploring fraternity. I am so fed up with this macho nonsense! It’s time for a change. We need more female narrators. We need a female perspective and men have to start thinking more like women. I think this is crucial to whether the public remain interested in adventure and exploration in the future, or switch off forever.

What men often fail to note is that there are still considerable differences in how a story can be told. For example, this morning I was searching the internet for stories about Himalayan expeditions. I found this report by a pair of male climbers:

“It’s been a tough and troublesome today. Our backpacks weigh about 60 pounds. Today we struggled for six hours. Tomorrow we will continue and pitch our final camp at 7,500 meters. We won’t sleep much tonight, but we are feeling all right.”

Other than their closest relatives, I find it hard to believe anyone is really interested in this stuff. Personally, I find it mind-numbingly boring. Endless even.

So, let’s compare this with a separate account. This time from an expedition on the same mountain, at the same time, but written by a woman:

“Why am I never satisfied? I’m thinking I should have exercised more. I also think I should have been more mentally prepared. Actually, I’ve been preparing for five years. And trained five times a week. But I don’t think I’m a good enough climber. But that’s the way I am in everyday life as well. I could be better at cooking, decorating, fashion, my job. I could be a better wife, friend, and so on. Still, I am not giving up my dream of climbing an 8,000-meter peak. But will I make it?”

Wonderfully thrilling! The fact that, in this case, the men reached the top and not the woman is unimportant. What is interesting, however, is her story. This is how tomorrow’s adventurers, when they are documenting expeditions need to be writing. This is how people lecturing should be talking. It’s the drama, the personal commitment we want, not another hero story.

An even better way is to recount the story of someone else; men should take inspiration from the achievement of others and not just try to impress with tales of hardship: We’re bored of it!

I worry that if we don’t change this male-dominated culture, we will see fewer professional adventurers and explorers, because less people will want to read about them. Women, save us from extinction!

Female explorers remember: Anything and everything is possible! We’ve known this for the last 150,000 years, maybe even for the last 3.2 million years, ever since the bipedal Lucy began her well-documented excursion…

Ladies, let us know your thoughts, and guys get tapping too. We are all in this together.

9 comments

  1. Yes there are many women explorers. Many find it difficult to get their voices heard but they are there. Wings WorldQuest is dedicated to women explorers. We now have 60 Fellows who are making important discoveries throughout the world. We have sponsored more than 40 flag expeditions. We have an education program that has reached 40,000 young people to inspire them to get engaged with learning. Exploration is not about the person as much as it is about the quest for knowledge. Check out the website http://www.wingsworldquest.org. Also my book Women of Discovery about 85 women from a dozen cultures who over the last 2000 years made important discoveries through exploration…Milbry Polk

  2. “Thank you Mikael for a very interesting article that put a big smile on my lips.

    Of course you are right. It is in fact very simple; We need variation to survive.
    This is true not just when we talk about female or male explorers but for everything in sociaty. To have an open mind and courage to change ones way of thinking enriches life, and can greaten any adventure.
    I agree that the view, up until now, of a typical explorer being a white male is obsolete.

    To gain wisdom you have to collect knowledge from many different sources and be able see that you can approach a task from different angles. That’s why I would like to see a lot more variation among adventurers. Young and old, men and women, people from all parts of the word and with all sorts of life and background. We have a lot to learn from eachother. The ”until-now-typical-male-explorer” will always exist, and even if I don’t quite understand them, I am glad that they do. 🙂 As Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said (and not Voltaire as many think) “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,”
    I am looking forward to more mixed word of explorers in the future with a lot of fantastic new ideas and views of the world. One never stops learning and enjoying the wonders of life. 🙂

  3. Right on the button, Mikael.

    As Malin suggested above, I need the feedback from women experiencing high adventure to get a truer perspective of the variable conditions and solutions they experience and make. Many of the blogs from men I have found mundane, repetitive, and, ultimately, BORING!

    Please don’t misunderstand me. There are also many men AND women who are doing a wonderful job of chronicalling the adventures with exceptional intimate expressions of the highs as well as the lows. Your trek in Siberia was one. Don currently on TBB is very descriptive. Jessica has also done an exemlary blog. Several other current and recent have developed unique styles of of composing their commentaries. This includes Ed Stafford in the Amazon.

    Have you on RSS Feed at the moment, since losing contact with you 3 years ago. Very happy to see you still active and progressing well. Never give up!

    Best to you, Ron

  4. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  5. “I loved your article. I recently worked on the PR for a mixed pair rowing the Atlantic. Their blogs may as well have come from different universes! As an outsider you would never have guessed they were sharing the same 23ft space for 2 months. Hers were much better received by their audience for their emotional honesty. “

  6. Hi Mikael,

    Hope life and fatherhood are both treating you well.

    I just read your blog post on Women Explorers from May. And I thought you made some great points.
    There really are some amazing women in the world and yes, they often share from the heart. I think for
    many women (of course I am generalizing here) it’s so much about the journey to the goal, not just the goal.

    Last fall I went with Ridlon when he climbed Cho Oyu in Tibet. I decided to go at the last minute and wasn’t trained
    for the summit so I spent a month and trekked with them to ABC and only up to 20,000 ft. I spent a great deal of time journaling
    and expressing the feeling of being in the shadow of the most awe inspiring mountains in the world, not about reaching 20,000 ft.

    Every day we did a dispatch to the website. All the guys dispatched about weather and the distance and the usual…I dispatched about
    what it was like to be the only woman in the group, quite a different spin.

    I also journaled about the fear of having my husband climb the 6th highest peak in the world. It was quite a rollercoaster of emotion from the excitement of him
    reaching for a dream and supporting him fully to a gut wrenching and real fear of him dying. What I discovered up there was that my biggest fear was lack of knowledge. Once
    I was there and understood better what was happening, much of my fear diminished. I filmed as much as I could and planned to do a documentary with that theme.
    That’s still a project down the road.

    I think that people want to read about the innermost feelings of being on an expedition and have a sense of really living the excitement, the fear, the pain the joy
    of such a feat, not the statistics.

    I would be happy to share some of my writings from the expedition with you and your readers, from exploring from a woman’s point of view. All of my journals are currently
    at home and I won’t be there until December. Perhaps I can send you some when I get home.

    I also have some thoughts on your most recent post on Tycoons Venture, which I will put in another email. Obviously, I feel exactly as you do about life and am thrilled to support anyone living their dreams!

    Have a great day, Mikael.

    Carin Kiphart

  7. Hi all,
    Lovely thoughts out there. I actually bumped into this page while searching on how to become an explorer and the things one should need to know. I happen to be an architect and a landscape architect. I’ve always loved to travel and I share this sense of adventure with my mum. She was always fascinated by different people and places. She didn’t get many opportunities to travel but she’s always been fond of reading about other explorer’s adventure stories.
    Anyway, I like to challenge myself. I’m a practicing Muslim woman and I plan to become an explorer. I’ll start this journey by going to a motorbike expedition first and then take it from there. I know there can be a lot of hurdles for women but that is the challenge. I’m pretty optimistic.

  8. Thank you for recognizing a need for more woman into adventure sports. I have been competing and practicing adventure sports through out the world traveling solo. A few wild and crazy accomplishments have been whitewater kayaking in Colombia and Equador, Rock Climbing in Spain, Surfing in Fuerteventura, SCUBA diving in Thailand, Snowboarding in the Alps but the list goes on. Everywhere I go, I love to encourage other woman to get out there and do adventure sports. I believe that woman are not taught from a young age that they should push themselves instead they are just about playing it save. It all goes back to risk – men have big egos where they are excited to prove themselves in these accomplishments, but to me I think it is quite silly. After years of pushing the limits and recognizing calculated risk, you learn to move past the fear and into the flow.

    However, being a woman, I always make sure that I keep my sexy side and as you can see on my website – adventure is sexy!

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