Updated: Jan 13
There's a tired trope about adventurers that just won't die (yet). That they are all white, middle-aged men of European-descent with a colonist mindset, hellbent on climbing every mountain just to trod on top of them, to claim them for their country and for their own.
It's a centuries-old story, and it's time The Conquerer was finally put to rest. There is nothing to conquer. There never was.
The Curious is the new explorer, the adventurer of today, and yet we've been around since the dawn of humanity. We know deep in our bones that while mountains can be climbed, they can never be claimed. We feel as surely as we feel the sun on our faces that any exploration must be done carefully, with due respect toward the human and beyond-human beings who have called the place we're now entering "home" since long before our grandpa's grandpa took his first breath.
I mean no ill will toward modern adventurers who happen to be white, middle-aged males of European descent... there are plenty of people identifying this way who are part of The Curious, actively dismantling the complex political systems, toxic philosophies, and harmful habits that gave rise to and perpetuate The Conquerer. And of course, there are also people who don't identify with that description who adopt the mindset of The Conquerer.
Sadly, the Conquerer legacy still exists in those who fail to honor the mountains, offer gratitude for the water, or simply pause to contemplate how they might minimize negative impacts and maximize positive ones. The evidence lies in piles of trash and initial-carved tree bark. But it's also found in subtler ways... like in seemingly harmless rock stacks which, when duplicated by millions of park visitors, disturb sensitive riverbed ecosystems. Actions rooted in The Conquerer mindset are harmful but not always intentional.
Fortunately, there are ways to shun The Conquerer and become The Curious. We can help by sharing these ideas far and wide and reminding ourselves of them often. After all... we each have the potential for both within us. The choice is ours, moment to moment.
It's our duty as modern adventurers to protect the lands we love, to destroy The Conquerer and build a new world with the rubble, one of explorers who stop to ask permission. Who know the names of the people who live(d) there and their relationship to the walls we aim to climb, the rivers we thirst to paddle, the trails we wish to trace, the plants we want to walk among.
The English word adventure has roots in Latin and French words meaning "to arrive, to reach." Its definition evolved through "a wonder, a miracle, accounts of marvelous things." Let's work together to restore these roots of the word. To arrive, fully, with our whole being, whenever we venture out in our own backyards or oceans away. Let's leave a legacy deeper and more true than any "conquerer" ever could: how to wonder as we wander, giving thanks for the marvelousness of existence. After all, we're naturally curious: eager to know and wanting to see...
And we know, see, and acknowledge with our words and actions that this marvelousness is part of us.
Onward + inward.