Why do people go on expeditions? It’s a common question in recent times, with the amount of expeditions that people go on. From people cycling around the world, rowing oceans, climbing mountains and skiing in the polar regions.
Family and friends generally ask the question of “Why?” and I’m not going to give the Mallory response of “Because it’s there”. It’s something much deeper, when I’m outdoors “it” makes sense. There is nothing to worry about, the views can be savoured whether that be a busy road during rush hour whilst running as the sun is setting or walking in the Yorkshire Dales under pouring rain. These are the times when I have a big grin on my face. This is where I’m truly alive. In these moments I am free.
The responses to my answer generally create more questions some probing others less so. “Is it really fun?”, “You could die!”, “Is it really worth all that struggle?” and my personal favorite “There’s always something decent on TV. David Attenborough’s already been there, just watch the DVD.”
It’s about testing yourself, and there isn’t a bigger arena than the wilderness. Seeing how hard you can push yourself and for how long, feeling your legs begin to give way because you’ve pushed yourself to the edge of your comfort zone. Then looking at your mate up ahead jumping through the heather and thinking “If he isn’t giving in then I’m definitely not” only to find out later he is just as knackered as you.
Its about earning something. Yes you could drive to these places and see the exact same view, but you don’t really see the same view because you haven’t earnt it. You haven’t exhausted yourself to be there. When I’m lying flat on my back, tired, sweaty and hungry there is a silent appreciation for this. The pain and suffering are gone, receding leaving you with a feeling of accomplishment. It’s something that cannot be bought no matter how rich or talented. It has to be earnt with sweat, determination and a splash of masochism.
As the evening meal is eaten, silence descends as there is no energy left to talk. I raise my head to the peaks around me, realising in that moment that there is nowhere I would rather be. Later as I lie on the grass with my eyes closed ready to doze off under the setting sun, I’m handed a bottle of Talisker and now there is definitely nowhere I would rather be.
So why do I go on expeditions? Well the answer is simple because it’s fun. The pain is worth it, the suffering is worth it, the training is worth it. As I push myself further than I have done before I have a grin right across my face and no one can take it away from me.