Woow, I have had such a response on the articles published about Ethical Exploration and Fakes and Cheats. I have received a lot of positive notes, but as usual, a whole bunch of really evil and aggressive abuse over my person. I guess that is a sign that this is an issue which needs to be discussed. The last time I had such an uproar was after writing this piece, about a need to debate what is exploration. I guess these articles belong to the same line of discussion, what is real exploration? Anyway, even if this means I will continue to receive a lot of upset comments, emails -by the way, always anonymous, so far not one, non-anonymous– of attacks on me as a failed human being and explorer, I just have to live with that.
This morning Hanna called me from the UK. She wants to write an article on the subject and wanted my opinions. One of the questions was, why do you want to open up an discussion about something nobody wants to talk about?
Answer: Well, just for that reason, to open up a discussion on the Ethics about Exploration. I think we within this line of work and/or lifestyle need some kind of a guideline to define a properly done Expedition or adventure. For example, ExWeb has done a great guideline to the issue of solo, unsupported polar trips. I think the business in general need these kinds of guidelines. this would help everyone involved, from the person doing it to supporters, media and sponsors. I am not doing it to hang anybody out, but have refered to issues mentioned on The Long Riders Guild website and ExplorersWeb. Some really unfortunate examples. BUT, I am not judging! I think every one is entitled to at least one major mistake, but of course, if it is repetitive, especially when trying to make oneself a real super human, than this should be known.
However, I think it is written in the genes, especially amongst testosterone driven male explorers, namely young ones at the beginning of the game, that one embellishes one self and ones adventures. I know I did! And I think that is something we humans have to live with. Explorers and adventurers overdoing reality a tiny bit. And, to a certain degree, it might well be the truth seen by this person. And history is full of examples of people being hanged out in shame. Like Frederick Cook, but with time, it turns out he and his claims might be right. So, if evidence isn´t really extremely clear, we should leave it at that. My opinion. Story telling is also important and we humans look at reality, individually, very different. and, most important, is to live, explore and enjoy! And spend less time debating like this…..
Hanna asked me another question, of importance:
Have you cheated or not told the whole truth, or embellished?
Answer: Yes I have. Especially when it comes to making myself look much better than I in reality am. For example, after the Siberian journey, I was often introduced as the guy who had done one of the coldest Expeditions in history. Which is kind of funny, if one understands that people have lived over 5000 years along the Kolyma River. And travelling up and down the river was their, and is, their daily life. When realizing, eventually, the stupidity of that claim, I immediately used that to take the mickey out of myself and present reality in my lectures, as for example in the lecture below.
And than, things tend to have their own life. I am in general an extremely sloppy and careless human at times and just go with the flow. Like 15 years ago I was part of a documentary where the producer said that I had cycled more kilometers than any other human being and touring cyclist, which is complete hogwash. But it has stayed there for years and even came up when I did this pilot for the Arabian Expedition, see You Tube clip of the pilot below. I took that first speaker away after the first mistake as I realized it was wrong, we did many try´s, but that was the speaker which got picked by the director when putting the film together. Because it was a flow which suited the pilot. And than it was to late to change it once the production had been done. Too costly. So I had to let it be. Unfortunately.
BUT, at that time I did those bicycle trips,by the way, it was known that it was one guy called Ian Hibbel and me who had done more or less the same routes. Passed the Darien Gap and the Sahara with the bike for examples. But back in those days, we didn´t have the Internet. Only books or rumors. So it is just a few years back I heard about Heinz Stücke….the tools of discovery are different today!
AND, preparing for the same Expedition, initially I got caught up with the supported and unsupported issue. I was dumb enough to call the Arabian Passage unsupported, mainly to make it more attractive for the broad casting industry, because as I saw it than, we were not having anyone giving us backup. Except us buying food and acquiring water whilst passing through villages. Unsupported in my mind, at this stage. Dumb, I know. It was the legendary Shane Winser at the Royal Geographical Society who put me straight in mind, when she bluntly told me:
“How can u call it unsupported? there´s nothing which can be called unsupported today, if you bring for example a satellite phone, how can it than be called unsupported?”
She was right of course. As in so many other issues regarding Expeditions. She is an enormous source of knowledge and wisdom.
So, yes, I have done mistakes for sure. But this is important, I have never ever told a lie about the travels I have done. The A to B thing. I haven´t said I have been somewhere where I haven´t, or climbed a peak I haven´t or done unsupported, alone when I haven´t. But, I have done the common human mistake of pretending to be some kind of a world champion. When I am reality am nothing but a sorry human full of errors and faults. A lot due to a very poor self confidence of course. But I stand for my CV.
When did this change?
Answer: I do think most of my Expeditions have been special and unique in many ways. But, that is the great thing with travelling. You learn, realize, grow as a human and get perspective of life. Three things have changed my view of life. Siberia, my partner of life Pamela and our daughter.Siberia, because it was my dream come true. And reality was better than the dream. Pamela, because as a human and an academic, she constantly questions, philosophizes and wants to know how everything works. Tiring at times, but extremely developing! And Eva? Well, children are so genuine, truthful, free of any type of emotional corruption and you realize how important it is, when being a parent, to be truthful to yourself. You are the role model your child is copying. Tell you one thing though, Eva will have a much better self confidence than her father, and therefore won´t fall into the category of playing up ones own importance. Thank God she has a great mother!
However, I also have to add that certain media -as the tabloids- and unrealistic sponsors helps to over do things, they embellish that this is the greatest ever- and it easily sticks. With everyone involved. (I have to add, in my case, it hasn´t been like that, I have done that all by myself.) And, important, we are after all, mere human beings. Especially me. And of course, the older you get, the more you understand. Which isn´t easy when you are young, full of life and try to set up a future for oneself. It is easy to make mistakes. And as far as I can see, the mistakes done in Exploration, have come from young people, beginning their journey through life.