Robyn Davidson is my hero. In the 70s, she decided to walk across the outback of her home country, Australia. She planned a 1700 mile trip, starting from Alice Springs and finishing at the Ocean. In preparation, she moved out to Alice Springs, worked on a camel farm, and eventually trained three camels to accompany her. And why did she do this? A woman deciding to ditch everything and embark upon a mind blowingly isolated six month trip surely has to have a reason behind it? A male shaped reason, probably?
Well, no. Robyn Davidson decided to do it for no reason other than she wanted to. She wanted to be alone in the desert, with her dog and some camels. She did it – with a little help from National Geographic and a handful of aboriginal communities on the way – but my GOD. She did it.
As you can probably tell, when watching this film I was absolutely enamoured with her story. Visually, it took me straight back to 2010, when me and my best friend haphazardly decided we were going to backpack Australia. We did it, we survived, and one of my most treasured memories is the time that we spent in and around Alice Springs. What struck me then is what struck me when watching many of the scenes in the film; the sheer and inescapable vastness of everything around me. I was fascinated with the space, the emptiness, and ultimately, standing on the cusp of what could be the biggest adventure of my life so far.
But, really, my trip was exactly that; an excursion on the periphery of adventure. On the outset, sure, it looks adventurous enough. Two 19 year old girls heading to the middle of Australia, scrambling around canyons in the desert with a group of strangers, rising before the sun to watch the first rays of the day hit the iconic, mysterious red rock that stands in the middle of, quite literally, nowhere… it all sounds like one big audacious, risky, exciting trip. But, was it?
From the safe circle of our organised tour, I can safely so that no, it was not. Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting and it was something completely different from our norm, but real adventure like Davidson’s is rare. To roam where people may not have roamed before, to escape the ‘world’ yet completely immerse yourself in it. To be unsure of whether or not you’re going to face real danger but, without hesitation, go there anyway.
I got talking to a friend about this subject. He told me that doing this trip now would be fine… you could just bring your iPod, a solar charger. Maybe even a Kindle. Get lost in music and literature, and basically enjoy a 6 month stroll across the desert. If anything went drastically wrong, even if help is hours or even days away, help is available with technology that you can bring along. For a second I nodded and thought, ‘Yeah. Y’know, that would be incredible. Nothing but you, some camels and the perpetual desert in front of you. What an adventure.”
Then I realised. I mean, come on. Kindles, iPods and solar chargers are not synonymous with adventure… is adventure even possible in a planned journey in 2015?
With the general explosion of technology, adventure when defined as a risky or daring activity really isn’t that attainable. Now, I’m definitely not one of those ‘Let’s-go-back-to-the-good-old-days-when-we-sent-messages-via-carrier-pigeon’ kind of people, but this realisation that my so-called adventurous trips hadn’t been that special and crazy after all left me feeling strange. I was a little disappointed and, all of a sudden, overwhelmed with the feeling of wanting to go and do something different, something that isn’t on the well trodden travel path, and somewhere where I wouldn’t have the luxury of a phone, the internet and easy entertainment.
Maybe it’s just that I have a big old case of travel envy and insatiable wanderlust. It’s been two years since I’ve done any ‘real’ travel aside from a week here or there… and with my next big trip approaching this summer (?!?!?! ahhhh – all will be revealed in a couple of weeks!), maybe this strange feeling that Tracks caused inside me was just wanting to get out there already.
Who knows. For me, of course, no matter how much I have de-romanticised it in this post, of course adventure isn’t really dead… Though many people – myself included – shroud safe and pretty standard trips in the veil of ‘adventure’, maybe adventure is something that is in the eye of the beholder. It’s transformed, as everything has, over the last century. Adventure is defined as undertaking daring or risky activities, but what exactly is the definition of daring and risky? Leaving your job to go travel is daring and risky for some, whilst for others, it’s an easy transition into the nomadic lifestyle they want to live.
Either way, Tracks is for me, the holy grail of adventure. Just one woman and one trip, done for nobody but herself. For anybody who has never heard of Robyn Davidson and her incredible travel story, Tracks, I implore you to watch it, or better yet, read it. Just a warning though: it’ll leave you with a niggling, unsatisfied feeling that only travel can satisfy.