top of page

In praise of Oases of the Imagination

young boy looking at map

As a young boy I would sit on my father's knee as he would keep me spellbound with stories of travelling through the jungles of New Guinea, and hitchhiking across the Nullarbor Plain in Australia. In those days you could often find me nestled on the couch in the living room, atlas spread on my lap, imagining what places might look like.

It wasn't long before I set out to make my own journeys. I was fifteen when I cycled across Europe and before I reached 25 I had hitchhiked from Holland to Istanbul and to the North Cape in Norway. I vividly remember a photo of Victoria Falls in our family atlas and it wasn't long before I set off to see them. Those were my first real adventure trips and I have never stopped since.

A few years ago, as I was hiking the Shackleton Crossing on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, I witnessed a sight I hope to never see again. There, at the physical highpoint of the trek, stood a young man, furiously tapping away on his mobile phone.

As we were literally in the middle of nowhere - South Georgia is well over 2000 kms from the tip of South America and nearly 5000 kms from the southern edge of Africa - I was curious about what he was doing.

He was posting to Instagram he told me. (He used a satellite link).

Now, don't get me wrong: I post to both Facebook and Instagram on a regular basis. And I have been known to see a photo on social media and thinking "I should go there".

But it begs the question: are we getting too much information these days? Are we too often bombarded with images from every corner of the planet that we seize to see the beauty of a place? Are there still moments when we sit down, map on our knees, and imagine what a place might look like, smell like, sound like? Places we know nothing about, have not seen photos of, yet exert a very strong magnetism?

I like to call these places "Oases of the Imagination".

My personal Oases of the Imagination include Russia's Kamchatka, the Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan, Jaffna in Sri Lanka and the Dogon escarpment in Mali.

Do you have Oases of the Imagination of your own? Email me to let me know.



bottom of page