Golden hour, post-downpour. Damask light glows on cold rock. It is a time for reflection. Jungle vines drip rainwater onto a lush green floor. Rum burns in the throat.
This is the afterwards, when all is said and done. Survival has been secured and that post-adventure hum courses through your veins. Stories are shared, a means to bond through experience. As Kim Frank says in her foreword to this issue, those of you reading Sidetracked, and the many who contribute to these pages, can fully relate.
If exploration is curiosity in action, she suggests, the seduction of adventure is how we test ourselves to discover our edges, pressing on them to see if and how they expand.
This issue seeks to deepen our understanding of what fuels our motivations, obsessions, and our search for meaning. Whether it be the truth found in letting go that Vreni Vom Berg describes in ‘Alaska Is For Dreamers’ or the art of learning shared by Shannon McDowell in ‘Aniakchak: A Wild Love Story’, adventures ask questions of us all and the answers come in the time we have to reflect afterwards, when firelight flickers and muscles ache. In ‘Fjord Til Fjell’, James Forrest speaks not only to his experience emerging with the wild, but also to the transportive power of immersing in stories.
Our pursuit of meaning may be something inside us alone, but we rarely accomplish anything without others. We are always part of a wider context. ‘With the right fellowship, anything is possible,’ says the fisherman that Leon McCarron meets in ‘Fellowship on the Tigris’. Perhaps this is why we adventure – to experience something of the lives of others. A need for connections – to landscapes, cultures, truths that form the foundation of our understanding of the world. As Kim Frank suggests, in gaining insight about the lives of others, we find reflections of ourselves – such as the shared recognition of the way the landscape of our birth home shapes who we are in Neilson and Howell’s piece, ‘Amazing Grace’. In ‘Trail of Tears’, Ian Finch shares the toll a gruelling odyssey can exact on those who explore, and references the agonising journey of a Cherokee nation, forced from their homes, along the same harrowing 1,300-mile route.
We should reflect on what we do, how we did it, what we learned, and how we changed. Adventure has always been a means to see something deep inside us, to examine how we relate to the world around us, and where we intend to go from here. Reflection, like a mirror, gives us perspective; a view we don’t always naturally see. Is there anything more valuable?