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...& Other Perfect Strangers
A pocket-sized, dip-into-read for the adventurous!
There really is a woman who lived in a tree - for sixteen years. A leopard occasionally shared it with her, lions stalked underneath and there were crocs in the river where she fetched her water. There's also a man who flew clean around the world in a microlight powered by a lawnmower engine. And a woman who single-handedly hauled a sled to the South Pole. Then there's the a guy who's best friends are ragged-tooth sharks, someone who planted more than a million trees and a man who hunts monsters in a forest. The question is: why do they do these things?
At least part of the answer, I think, is that modern society has perfected the art of having nothing happen at all. There's not anything particularly wrong with this, except for large numbers of people, if life has become easy it has also become vaguely unfulfilling. Civilisation is about eliminating as many unforeseen events as possible. But, as inviting as that seems, it leaves us hopelessly underutilised.
That's where the idea of adventure comes in. The word comes from the Latin adventura, meaning 'what must happen.' An adventure is a situation where the outcome is not entirely under your control. Its outcome is up to fate. Soldiers at war, policemen patrolling tough precincts or sailors on a tramp steamer surviving a storm aren't having adventures. Their normal lives are unpredictable enough. Adventurers, it seems to me, are people who could have chosen a safer trajectory or a passion less demanding, but didn't.
As a travel writer and photographer I've had a few unpredictable moments - charged by an enraged hippo, looking up and seeing a leopard on the branch above staring down at potential dinner, arrested by stoned youngsters with AK47s. Those sorts of things are bound to happen in Africa at some time or another. But, more interestingly, in my travels I've met some really spectacular adventurers, the sort of people that make you look back at your life and think of all the things you could have done.