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Why Do I Explore? For the Struggle?

It’s hard to talk authoritatively about “struggle” whilst sitting in a comfy chair drinking tea, eating biscuits (and typing with o n e f i n g e r). But on the road it all makes sense.

I hate the gag reflex stench of road kill, the stickiness of sweat. I hate being stared at. I hate being asked the same questions a hundred times a day. But brutal days will end, as they always have done and will continue to do. Days end. A different sunset, a different resting point, a different perspective. A little less road waits for you tomorrow. A little more road lies behind you. It’s just as it always was.

Why drive when I can walk? For the struggle. So why walk when I could crawl? What are the rules? Where are the arbitrary boundaries in this search for struggle? They move and shift like sandbars. I’m not entirely sure they stand up to rational scrutiny. I suppose they are defined by what feels right, to me and me alone, at the time. I want it to be hard. I want to spend most of the time dearly wishing I was not here, battling in my mind against excuses to stop. I suck a grim satisfaction from it, like sucking a lemon if you’re desperately thirsty. I enjoy grinding through things that most people could not, or would not manage. “You’ve got it in the neck -stick it, stick it- you’ve got it in the neck,” repeated Captain Scott over and over on his way to the Pole, a mantra for a struggle.

I never begin a road purely to write about it. I would be ashamed if my motivation ever became the showing off, the praise of others or the tin pot glory of world records. My struggle must be for myself. I want it to be bloody hard and that can only be for myself. We all have different thresholds of what we find hard.

The struggle reassures me I can still be hard. Or is ‘hard’ the wrong word? Perhaps ‘daft’? Why does it please me? It’s an old story. From the Bible to King Lear to Crime and Punishment to our own generation’s contribution of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Through suffering comes redemption. Or, if not quite that, it at least provides perspective, self-worth, and an appreciation for how good normal life is.

This text is an extract from There Are Other Rivers, available as a giant mappazine or a free Kindle sample.

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Comments

  1. You’re right about those self-imposed boundaries: where (and why) do we draw the arbitrary lines on our own challenge? But we do just that throughout our lives. There’s no real reason to make anything in our life harder than it already needs to be and most people don’t; I suppose a pretty reasonable definition of an explorer might be someone that does.

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  2. john Edwards Posted

    Not Captain Scott, but Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who survived the bad decisions of the more famous Captain, though he clearly never got over the guilt of doing so.

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