Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Explorers, Adventurers,Travellers I Fear The Fear

There´s absolutely no doubt that 9/11 changed the world of travel and exploration for the worse. It caused suspicion, hate and fear pretty much everywhere. Borders became more complicated, hearts colder and the freedom to roam the world at large, became once again restricted. When the Soviet Union fell in the late 80´s, this was great news for everyone who loved to travel and seek out new knowledge, landscapes and cultures which had been hidden away for most of the world the previous 60 years. For awhile it was basically North Korea and Saudi Arabia who were the only extremely difficult countries to fully access. 9/11 stopped this brief open freedom and the way the world should be, free of borders and open to all people. But again fear closed borders or made the opportunities to get a visas and permits extremely complicated and expensive. I have been hoping for years that things would cool down, the fear would vanish and rational and clear thinking take over. It hasn´t happened and unfortunately it has gotten worse by the day. And, since the great migration from the Middle East and beyond started the summer of 2015, this unreasonable and hasty fear has escalated dramatically.

I have always felt comfortable in my own country. We have been sheltered from the reality further south and we have pretended our borders, if you get into to Europe, is open to everyone. Initially when the migration started, we did what everyone should do, opened our border to those who needed help. I felt proud again to be Swedish,  However, it didn´t take long, mainly due to the incredibly poor quality media around nowadays, who create fear and ignoranced, for the Swedish politicians to panick an close its borders. And right now, we live in a country where fear has arrived big time. The tragedy that happened in Paris, of course, escaleted this fear and like the US we are giving into this fear. Suddenly we have the police checking papers if we just wanna go over the bridge to Denmark and they definitely seem to treat Arab looking people harder and treat them with suspicion ahead of kindness. But worst of all is the fact that people are scared and that they, in fact, have bought this awful message from especially the conservative media:

“These people are bad. Everyone except we ourselves.”

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Great hospitality in Arkah, Krasnoyarsk region, Russia.

I am writing this piece because this fear will make life for any explorer, traveller and adventurer much more complicated and I believe those borders outside the rich world, will soon close up again for everyone due to the polarisation that is created by the Western media and politicians in the process. And this media, I do blame for a lot of this fear which have arrived and made life so much worse for everyone. Today, it is hard to find a media who doesn´t have some kind of an agenda. It is hard to fully trust flag bearers like the BBC, the Guardian, New York Times and Dagens Nyheter. They stick to the establishment in a way which is very surprising and need to make money from commercial ads and therefore don´t do their job as they should. It is impossible to watch CNN and Sky News for example. You can´t trust a thing they say about the world outside their own borders. And, worst of all, I know this fact especially well since daily following the Yemen development and tragedy, there is a trend today just to copy each other and quote and use so called experts, who say the most inflammatory things to cause sensation and there´s very seldom one can see that proper investigation and reserch has been done. Except by some alternative media. There´s many good and challenging one´s around. Like for example Intercept. And among the more established, the Listening Post. I am not the only one with these opinions. The distinguished Walter Pincus at the Washington Post is of the same opinion about the state of media today. Read his piece here. But, just a point of view on the topic of alternative media, there´s way too many so called independent experts around today with the most insane out-of-context opinions and we need both new and traditional media and investigative reports back to its proper best and status in society. We need well trained and educated journalists to better inform us in a constructive and reliable way. Everywhere.

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So what can we professional travellers do to help to take away this fear? If we don´t do something profound, I think there will be much less of us very soon. At least exploring the more unknown parts of our world. I believe we need to become much more activist in what we do, even though it borders a political agenda. We have to hold back on the self glorifying part and put more emphasis on the bigger picture, like the environment for example, which lies very close to hand for what we do. And helping to draw attention to indigenous people and their rights in society. We need to get out there in media and on the streets to show support for issues for more important than ourselves. And try, when we produce, to put issues int its right context and show that there are other ways to look at a topic discussed.

I am trying follow my own advice. Slowly, slowly I get it. For example, I have dropped meat from the menu. Most diary products, almost all chicken and I eat fish only once a week. I have joined climate marches and I support as many calls for petitions I can. I try to give help to people who have very little. A small contribution, but it makes me feel much better about myself.

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3 comments

  1. Hello, Mr. Strandberg.

    My name is Joe, and I’m sixteen years old.
    Over the last few months I have been really excited to learn a lot about you, and what you do.

    I suppose I should start from the beginning. While in middle school, my dream was to be a professional athlete, and it still is. If I could do that, it would be awesome. Unfortunately, though I have the will to succeed, I am not exactly a physical superman – I’m not fast or strong by any stretch of the imagination. I realized that, and though I will still give my all to achieve athletic success, I must admit that I have accepted its unlikelihood.

    So for the last two or three years when people have asked me what I want to do when I grow up, I have responded with, “I don’t know.”
    Early this fall, I realized that life goes by fast. Next fall, my parents will want me to start looking at colleges and universities, and then it won’t really work to say “I’m not sure” anymore.
    So I actually did start thinking about what I would like to do. And I started to think about what I would want to do, and what I could do for fifty years straight, day after day, and not ever find it dull. And that is when I realized that I want to be outside in the air, seeing the great creation.
    So I thought about being a park ranger (and that still is a very good possibility for me). But then another alternative came into my mind, and that is exploring.
    I first was just thinking regretfully, because all the corners of the map are filled in. I was just imagining myself as Marco Polo or Christopher Columbus, or maybe even Indiana Jones, discovering ancient cities and lost sacred artifacts. Then I googled “modern day explorers.” Soon after, I typed in “how to become a modern day explorer.” That’s when I found an article you wrote 9 Tips to Becoming a Modern Day Explorer. It really made me think about what I would have to do.
    And one thing led to another, and I checked out your site and read a little bit about you. I particularly appreciate your honesty in your article about yourself as a human being and how blessed you are.
    I have also just gone searching for ways to become an explorer, places to explore, and that sort of thing. But still the most helpful thing for me has been that article. This next part will be in response to that advice.

    I do have some ideas for what I could do as an explorer. Some of them might be kind of dumb, but like you say, if people tell me I’m crazy, I’m on the right track, correct?
    I want to retrace the silk road on foot. Secondly, I’d like to walk across two deserts in one trip: walk from Nouakchott in Mauritania to Muscat, Oman, covering the Sahara and the Rub al’Khali. I want to climb Mt. Everest – doesn’t everyone? But I think a bigger challenge would be K2… Maybe if I’m committed enough, I could even find a new route up, not necessarily on K2, because it’s pretty well traveled, but a less well known mountain, perhaps. Those are just a couple of the things I’d like to do; that’s a little bit of my vision. What I want to do more than anything, though, is just explore the unexplored, places like Bhutan and the Amazon Rainforest.
    As for how I accomplish this, my biggest enemy will be the urge to take the easy way out in whatever I do. I will have to accept the fact that I will probably have to deal with some setbacks, and I will have to persevere through them if I truly want to do this.

    As for how I accomplish all this, I do have some ideas. My value as an explorer could be as a writer for a journal or magazine like National Geographic. I mean, I don’t want to sound like I am telling anyone how good I am, but I just think writing is one of my strengths.
    Another possibility is to just go to school and find myself a job as an outdoorsman or park ranger, then save enough money to at least partially fund myself.
    The last thing I’ve found is an association called WWOOF, which is an organization that will let you travel anywhere in the world and pay your accommodations in exchange for volunteer work, although that idea seems a little more restricting to me.

    I have two questions to you, and they are kind of the same question.
    One of the foremost opportunities for me would be a Young Explorer Grant from National Geographic, which is a grant for a few thousand dollars given to individuals between 18 and 25 who want to pursue research, conservation, and exploration opportunities. From what I have read about it, getting one seems to be a pretty big deal.
    One of the components of the application is that a person should provide a previous experiences type thing, sort of a résumé. The first thing I am wondering is, what are some things I can do to get some experience as an explorer?

    The second question is really broad. What can I do to accomplish this? Do you have any ideas? How did you get started? Anything you think you can tell me that you think can help me accomplish this goal, I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you very much for listening, Mr. Strandberg. Your articles have been very inspirational. I hope that I can one day walk out the door and do something as awesome as you do every day.

  2. A big Thank You to Mikael Strandberg for this great article, a must read for those of us who suffer from the wanderlust bug. Thanks again Mikael for always giving a logic and honest perspective.Barry

  3. You have touched on an important subject, if exploration is to remain a possibility in the future. May 2016 prove to be a better year for you and your family.

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