Any adventure worth having starts as a dream. It’s that spark, that shiver of excitement, a story you tell your friends.
You go through various stages after this, where you treat it with increasing seriousness until you are suddenly there, now, in the present with no choice but to continue.
I read a news report a while back about “the greatest living explorer” Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his then-upcoming record-breaking attempt at an Antarctic expedition. The story asked if there are any real adventures left: now the highest peaks have been climbed, the oceans explored (apart from their depths), and everything available to view on Google Earth.
I remember one day at an early age telling my Dad that I when I grew up I wanted to be an explorer. He told me back then that there were no explorers any more, because there wasn’t anything left to explore. All the lands have been discovered, and all the maps have been published. I guess the Queen of Spain will never give me a fleet of ships to seek out new lands.
This is about that first part: when you have the dream. Because, you see, I have the dream right now. I call it “By Any Means Necessary” (or BAM! For short) and it’s quite simple in concept. From Alaska to Argentina, by any means necessary. Two continents in one journey.
It turns out that the northernmost point of Alaska is a place called Barrow. If you look it up on Google Maps, it doesn’t even appear to be on the mainland — and I understand from some brief research that it has restricted access. The furthest north you could actually drive would be to a delightfully-named place called “Deadhorse” in Alaska.
Doesn’t the name “Dead Horse” alone just fill you with confidence?
Contrastingly, the Southernmost tip is Ushuaia in Argentina, and where Dead Horse appears in pictures as a featureless, white tundra, Ushuaia looks the kind of paradise you would hope to reach after such a journey.
The journey itself on paper could hardly be simpler. Surely, in theory all you need is a compass and to keep heading south? There also exists the “Pan-American highway”, more of a gesture than a continuous highway, it is as a loose system of roads connecting North and South America and runs for 48,000km.
This isn’t counting the Darién gap in the network of about 100km between Panama and Colombia, where it is just rainforest.
The Darién gap is where the idea of “any means necessary” comes in – because one doesn’t just get in a car in Alaska and get out in Argentina, 3 months later, stretching and looking for the bathroom. The adventure will involve doing whatever it takes to get from point A to point B, whether that means bicycle, bus, train, car, kayak or old-fashioned shoe leather.
I’m not a Bear Grylls sort of guy.
It feels like a shameful admission, that I should be fashioning a bivouac out of my own facial hair, but this isn’t meant to be a survival or endurance challenge. It’s not even necessarily an entirely novel idea – I’m sure it’s been done before. But hasn’t everything?
The point in exploring is that you do it for you: sure, you might stumble onto an undiscovered Mayan pyramid in the jungle, or find a lost tribe (note: nobody is “lost”. Some are uncontacted, and should be left that way, but they aren’t lost and waiting to be found) but the chances are you won’t. This is about you, your world changing, and seeing the world for yourself.
In theory, on paper, the adventure is possible.
A steady rate by car would complete this journey in something like 3 months, but none of this takes into account all the little things like wolves, bears, mountain lions, poisonous spiders, snakes, armed robbers, kidnappers, and any number of things that could kill you in the rainforest. There are a lot of things to be scared of – but nothing says it can’t be done.
What scares me the most of all is that this could actually happen. I am researching people who could help me with this adventure, looking at collaborations that will take this off the page and onto the road. I am reaching out to friends and associates, pitching why it would be good, and what I can bring to the table: why anyone would want to support me.
I am still a long way from boarding that plane to Alaska, but I am getting closer. This all counts as part of the adventure: the imagining, the dreaming, and the planning.
It’s possible that after all the imagining, the dreaming, and the planning it will come to nothing, for one reason or another. But like with everything else in life you see what you can salvage, throw the rest away, and start again with something new.
Sometimes this could be anything from not getting that job you really wanted, losing a job, or a piece of writing you finished and don’t like or many, many things.
Your dreaming and planning and perseverance will be what sets you apart.
James Chesters is an explorer, adventurer and writer living in London, England. He aims to share his stories to inform, entertain and, hopefully, inspire others to explore the world — while also expanding his own horizons. The rest of the time, James is a copywriter, freelance journalist, and community/marketing geek promoting things that are important to him. Read more from James at jaychesters.tumblr.com and follow him on Twitter @jameschesters.
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