I don’t really want to bother with the backstory, I trust you have the capacity to flesh out the details for yourself given the links posted above.
But I do want to talk about what Ed Stafford is doing. To me, there is something incredibly profound about this quest. Something exciting, exhilarating-by-proxy. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, what so interested me in Stafford’s great adventure. The more I read his blog updates – I’ve been glued to this for a few months now – and checked out some of the pictures and videos he has posted, it hit me…
It’s the synthesis of bare-bones backpacking and the iGeneration. The intersection of the primitive and the progressive. The concept that these opposing ends of the technological spectrum can not just simply co-exist, but fuse together in such a way that through our laptops and our iPhones, we can journey with Stafford and see parts of the world we could otherwise never dream of seeing.
That idea fascinates me. Here is Stafford, starved and straining every muscle in his body to hack through razorgrass and drag his swollen feet through miles of floodwater and marsh, offering updates through a solar-powered laptop. Placing calls via satellite phone. Offering the world to us, provided he’s found an opening in the Amazon canopy. So while we can marvel at this contemporary man-versus-wild story playing out in blogged or tweeted chapters, we can marvel at this story because of the technology that would seem so diametrically-opposed to the world which our hero inhabits. Thing is, though, the more involved we become in his journey, the more vicarious it becomes…the more we realize that perhaps there is a cohesion of iPods and machetes, jungle rafts and laptops.
Beyond that thought, it’s just an incredible story. Something about it makes you feel so inferior in terms of your own life story. I have cousins who have stood on the Great Wall and scaled Welsh castles, friends who have been arrested in foreign countries…and I’ve never been west of St. Louis. My New York story was bracing myself against the bitter chill of an Atlantic wind on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, seeking refuge in the sea of plastic green statues and Times Square-centered postcards in the gift shop adjacent. My Great Wall sat in the back of Climb Time. And the closest I’ve ever come to razorgrass was an unfortunate detour through a field of stinging nettle on a Brown County mountain biking trip, ticks more menace than pit vipers.
Reading Stafford’s story, you tend to ask – could YOU do it? Conquer the wild? Achieve this great sense of spiritual accomplishment, this sense that you’ve passed through the jaws of the uncaring natural world and emerged stronger for it? I don’t know. Personally, I tend to doubt it. I hate spiders. I’m allergic to mosquitoes. The longest hike I’ve ever participated in only claimed three or four hours of my life. Yet every time I check Stafford’s site, I feel inspired to…I don’t know…DO something? If nothing else, to claim I did.
But then I remember that I can blog from the comfort of a black leather couch, too.