Thursday, 1 February 2007

Exploration starts at your own front door

Rereading some Iain Sinclair today I was struck by the way he travels in time, travels in experience and emotion, has strange experiences, sees unusual and engaging things - all without leaving London.

We often think of travelling as something we do on holidays. Wrong.

We think of it as "going  somewhere". Wrong - in the strictly geographical sense, anyway.

Sinclair is always "going somewhere" and yet he doesn't go anywhere. The travelling happens in his mind.  It's the way he thinks about and engages what he sees - the street markets, the cemeteries, the boarded up houses, the CCTV cameras. The history that lies beneath. There are subterranean layers to his London - some mythical, some historical, some the layers given by different people's experiences of place.

So when I hear the common complaint that you can't explore any more, because everywhere has been conquered - because Everest is covered in tourists and tin cans, because everywhere has been 'discovered', or turned into a theme park  - I wonder; have they tried exploring where they live?

I think it was Marek Kaminski, the Polish explorer, who was asked by a journalist when he came back from one of his expeditions; "Where are you going next?"

To which he answered; I'm going to walk the beach from Gdynia to Gdansk.

That's twenty kilometres. If you're counting. And he comes from Gdansk.

Try it today. Go out of your front door, but go by a different way.

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