The death of an Explorer and a lesson for young explorers

I have thousands of contacts on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, but since my problems began and became known, I have only heard from two of them. You are one of them.”

The young explorer in question is really a true explorer who genuinely loves preparing for an Expedition, doing it and getting back sharing his experiences, but who have decided to put his boots on the shelf.

“It is amazing how much time I spend on the Internet connecting with other people who are into adventure and expeditions. And all the time I was away from my family doing this for nothing. And there is such a hard job getting sponsors nowadays. It is getting harder by the day. Nope, all that plus the fact this stalker just got worse by the day, well, I decided it was time to do other exciting things and spend more time with my family. I don´t regret the decision a second right now.”

In truth, in my book, there are few proper explorers out there today. Most of the one´s fighting for a piece of the sponsor cake or a few seconds in the lime light, are in it mainly for their own benefit to become famous and remembered. Which I can understand, but with age have realized how destructive it is. Plus of course they like the adventure. And than they use global warming or “educating” school kids as a way to get sponsor money and recognition. Which I can understand as well, but to make a difference long term you really have to have your heart into the issue to make a difference. My friend who has had enough of this eternal struggle, he had many very good ideas for the upcoming future which could have made a serious global difference, but the strain to support his family and an evil stalker, killed his promising future as an all time explorer.

He had come a good way on the route to establishing himself as an explorer and to support himself, but a personal tragedy plus this stalker, just killed his energy. It is really sad, since we have so few proper explorers on earth right now, just a whole lot of young personality free wannabees who fight for the few sponsorships which are available and who due to this fact, are ready to do whatever to get into the lime light.

I am writing this piece because I really feel sad of this fact and there´s nothing I can do to change the explorers mind. And, worst of all, is the fact how few of these so called friends who where there when things were going well for him and who knew about the stalking and his personal tragedy, who suddenly disappeared and forgot to give him any kind of emotional support. Next time it can be your turn.

So, my advice to young explorers is; Build a very strong base of very good friends within the business and that can only be achieved by being loving, present, supportive and helpful. In good times as bad.


  1. Sad indeed Michael. But I’m not sure “explorers” have a choice about “hanging up their boots”… it’s in their blood! That’s what makes them true explorers. Your friend will find another way to “explore”, he may just have to think of a different way to the one he already knows. I do hope he finds happiness in whatever he chooses for the future. And we all know that our “friends” show their true colours when the going gets tough… and we are unlikely to find them on Facebook or Twitter (although I think these have their place). Good luck to all and I hope you and your family are well. G

  2. I admire the conviction that has driven you to write this and agree that darkness enters the room whenever someone feels he or she has no other option but to give up on his dreams (or life). We seem to live in an age where the illusion of “fame” and being a celebrity has become the be-all and end-all of most people’s existence. It has become common-place that someone is “celebrated” not for their actions of good or real life achievements, bravery or talent BUT solely for the fact that at some moment in time their photograph was taken and this action has been repeated ever since…a face, a fake story and many empty words in a magazine and nothing more of substance.
    I am certain many of us have gone through deeply traumatic events or darkness in our lives (and the trauma is not necessarily related to the “size” of the event but rather to the impact is has/had on our hearts, souls and minds) and sadly, I am equally more than certain that most of us have discovered that an old saying in my native language of German holds more truth than ever. The saying goes something along the lines of: ‘when the ship starts to take in water the rats are the first to jump ship’. It is a very sad mystery to me why so many people use the term “friend” when they do not want to live up to the responsibility or commitment that goes along with the meaning of this word…and this is not limited to your line of work either. A friend is someone who stands by you no matter what, no questions asked, someone who walks with you through this crazy thing called life and someone who has your back when the going gets tough. Call me old fashioned, but for me this is the real meaning of the word friend. So many people are more than happy to walk alongside of you when the terrain is easy and the sun is shining. They are even more happy to walk alongside of you when you have had to clip then into your karabiner and walk the difficult patch with them (to make them safe, steady and guide them out of their troubles…as friends would do without any question asked)…however, only very few people will repay you this kindness! Most people will run away from you as fast as they can when your life-path starts to enter even just slightly more difficult terrain…never mind them clipping you into their harness when you need just a little bit of help from them…suddenly you will find yourself at the brink of an abyss with no backup and nobody to clip you into their safety-line or harness. It has happened to me many many times and it seems to be a very sad fact in life that exactly this will happen to many more good-hearted people over the world and over again and again.
    The old values of friendship seem to no longer apply to way too many people. For them the only one of importance is: they, themselves and nobody else. So, looking at the world from that point of view, it become a sick kind of logic that standing by someone, caring about them even if the terrain gets tricky, telling them: we will get through this old friend, have faith in yourself, seems to suddenly be “too much hassle” [when it was exactly those actions that brought them back to safety in most cases when they needed a bit/or a lot of support themselves]. After all, standing by someone can be hard work and is not exactly glorious…it involves tears, commitment, conviction and faith…in short: not something that gets one into a glamor-magazine the quick and easy way.
    It will always remain an absolute mystery to me how such people then can still look themselves in the eyes when they glance at their reflection in the mirror. What do they see in their eyes that is staring back at them?! Not all humans will let you down but (in my humble opinion) most of them will…a real friend is a treasure so much more worth than any gold, diamonds, material goods one can imagine…but they are very hard to find these days. It saddens me deeply to read about your friend, and to read your upset in this story…BUT it sends a light of hope into this world because you still care, you wrote this because you still want to change things and are actually upset about all this…but (in my humble opinion) you are one of the very few old-fashioned people still out there (still left). In this age of “easy come easy go- everyone is replaceable” mentality “hard” work (and friendship can be hard work) seems to be deeply ‘uncool’. Your advice is very sound: Don’t give up on humans, don’t ever feel sorry for giving someone a second chance…but make sure you have real friends in your life (who will catch you when you happen to slip and who will clip you into their biner and harness when the terrain gets tricky)…but life has taught me to NEVER expect to be treated with the same care and kindness oneself has offered to those around (as most times one will be repaid not in kindness at all but rather in malice…as not standing by someone in times of trouble or danger is nothing but cowardice and malice), celebrate life and be free but NEVER rely on too many others as you may find them to be running away from you faster than lightning at the first sign of rain. Rely on your real friends and never lose faith n yourself.

  3. Mikael
    In this small little world of ours it’s fairly easy to work out who you are probably referring to and I’m very saddened to hear that he doesn’t feel he can continue but I have no doubt that he will find other, maybe less outspoken and public, avenues for expressing his adventurous nature. As Gaynor points out, it’s in our blood!
    I think the difficulty for many of us is that whilst we have a huge and wonderful community of fellow adventuring friends online (you are one such friend of mine) we rarely meet each other in person. Because we don’t meet in person these relationships are ultimately transient. There is nothing like meeting someone in person to cement the bonds of friendship.
    When I decided to take a job in London this year as a way of preparing for bigger and better things it didn’t take long for me to question my logic. I’d left London some time ago knowing that I didn’t want to go back so it was a shock to the system to find myself hurled back into the rat race after a blissfully slow 52 days rowing the Atlantic. But it was a blessing in disguise. This year I finally had the chance to meet many of my virtual friends in person. What were once transient and fairly meaningless online relationships have blossomed into lifelong friendships. And maybe that’s the trick – we need to get away from our computers and spend time with each other. I certainly believe it’s why the RGS and the expedition community here is thriving. And it’s definitely why I look back on the 2007 Atlantic Rowing Race, where I became friends with 21 other crews, as one of the richest experiences of my life.
    So to all adventurers and explorers reading this, my door is always open. You know where to find me, and hopefully it won’t just be on Twitter!

  4. Hi there all of you and first of all, thanks for those great comments, I have received many more by email, from explorers who doesn´t wanna be published. Some, or quite a few, think it is me who I write about, but it is not. In shallah, it could have been, And still might be in the future. Just so u readers now! M

  5. I completely agree wtih Luna’s long comment and your final sentence “Build a very strong base of very good friends within the business and that can only be achieved by being loving, present, supportive and helpful. In good times as bad.” This is true especially during these this hard economic times.

  6. Maintaining my silence on this topic has proven futile, and I find myself compelled to offer some thoughts that will hopefully sway a disheartened soul.

    Firstly, I would prefer to view the aforementioned condition as “death of an explorer’s spirit” rather than a “death of an explorer.” It isn’t just a matter of semantics because this explorer-protagonist is still very much alive, and I personally refuse to believe that the embers of the fire that fueled his initial desires cannot be rekindled.

    Most of us who choose to live within an archetypal explorer’s paradigm experience highs and lows and plateaus, as well as periods during which we lean toward forfeiting the lifestyle altogether. For some, it is a tragic event that induces full surrender, for others it is a shift in family dynamics, but for the majority, I believe this resignation is mainly the result of profound disappointment not so much in our own selves but in others associated with the group.

    As an observer of this condition, my analysis lays bare the fact that it is the idealists and purists among us who become most gravely disillusioned. We are the ones who strive to live by and uphold the ideals of the *true* explorers – the ones who didn’t pursue their summits or goals strictly for fame and fortune. We endeavour to abide by the virtuous principles in an ethical manner, and when we see those principles grossly misrepresented, we can’t help but feel that our own integrity has been violated by association.

    While I cannot know what led to the “death,” or rather the dampening of this particular young explorer’s essence, I would like to offer him some perspective. I have been in that same place myself many times, convinced that throwing in the proverbial towel would somehow mitigate my deep disillusionment. That “remedy” only works temporarily, and with time, I realize that it is my duty to confront the actions of those individuals who overtly dilute the legitimate explorers’ tenets and lower their standards.

    Understanding that many people look upon us as role models, we must also take into account that there are some who view our achievements with envy. The individuals in this second group realize that they do not possess the attributes nor perseverance or discipline to attain similar successes whilst following our credo, so they opt to cheat or find unethical means by which to achieve comparable goals. Although it could be a point of pride that others want to be like us, I find myself angered by the lack of integrity these imposters display. I classify them as explorer-facsimiles even though they make their claims of reaching summits or trudging through jungles or spending time with aboriginal peoples. We know they do what they do strictly to see their names in print as a form of self-promotion and bloviation. Such counterfeit methodology is to me a betrayal of the principles upheld by Sir Edmund Hillary or Ernest Shackleton or Neil Armstrong and others of like stature.

    So, it is out of sheer defiance to those pseudo-explorers that, after a period of reflection, I always pull my boots back on and insist on preserving the rightful and bona fide explorers doctrine. We, the purists and idealists, who honour the legacy of the authentic explorers who came before us, and we, who with great respect choose to follow in their footsteps, have an OBLIGATION to lead by example. It is up to *us* to inspire younger generations not to simply pursue their dreams, but to do so ethically and with utmost honor and integrity.

    I, for one, refuse to forfeit this battle…. and I hope that my words will motivate this young explorer to reconsider his decision to hang up his boots, and join me in this quest. They cannot win as long as we don’t surrender.

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