A community member started a bit of controversy earlier this week when they shared a gorgeous picture of a waterfall in our We Are Explorers NSW & ACT Facebook group and wouldn’t name it. The resulting brouhaha highlighted two distinct adventure philosophies and brought into question what the hell we’re seeking when we venture into the wild.

A towering waterfall thunders down a glistening rock face and comes to a rest in a shallow pool.  Imagining yourself to be the dwarfed figure in the picture, you can almost feel the mist caressing your face through the screen. Saturated green mosses and vines tumble down in a complementary cascade of retina-stinging beauty.

Thanks Yasmin Maher for telling me about this place! It’s so epic!” reads the excited caption. And epic it definitely is, but then the comments start rolling in…

“Where is this?”

“Yes. Where dat?”

“Amazing. Where is this?”

“So beautiful. Where is this?”

“Yes, please share!! *Love heart eyes emoji*

As the comments mount, Calumn, a veteran Explorer and regular contributor to the site, begins to think that he may have made a mistake.

You see, Calumn was told the location of this place in confidence and between its remote, pristine beauty and being unsure if revealing the location would annoy the person who told him about it, he’d opted to keep it a secret.

Sure, it was probably an error in judgement to share the photo in a group predominantly based around the sharing of locations, but to give some context, Yasmin hadn’t exactly spelled out the location in the first place. She writes:

“I made Calumn look for this place and it made it all the more special for him because it was his own discovery.”

In many ways, Calumn’s experience was tied, not simply to the physical beauty of the place, but to the nostalgia of discovery that accompanied it.

Calumn later wrote:

“I am so glad I didn’t know what to expect, every corner I went around a little piece of paradise appeared…I loved the sense of finding something new.”

But let’s wind it back a bit, to the point where Calumn started to question whether he should have posted the photo at all.

The Mood Turns Sour

Realising that they weren’t going to be given the location, the comments quickly changed in tone.

“Why can’t we just get a simple answer?”

“You usually need a few clues to begin any research.”

And the kicker, the line that, for me, distilled the points of view into two distinct camps:

“This is a group for sharing – please just tell us. Most people here simply don’t have the time to scour all of NSW to find the place.”

The Pragmatists

Introducing the first group. The Pragmatists. They’re time poor and they just want to know where the damn waterfall is. They’re not interested in the “journey of discovery” or researching to find a location. As one pragmatist wrote:

“I appreciate the inspiration I receive in this group when it is spelled out for me…that doesn’t make the experience any less special for me, seeing a photo is nothing like being there in the flesh, with all my senses working overtime.”

Fair point. I guess that’s why we didn’t call the website We Are Researchers.

But we did call it We Are Explorers. So, can we still claim that we’re adventuring, or exploring, if all of the cards are on the table? Do pragmatists only value the climactic finale of the adventure, happy to skip through to the main event. Does this describe you?

The above comments finally prompted a reply from Yasmin:

“A lot of people have mentioned that they don’t have time to find places and I think that needs to be examined. The spirit of adventure is incredibly important to keep alive and having everything packaged and handed to us as neat, cling-wrapped trips takes away from the experience….part of the adventure is finding things out for yourself and making your own discoveries.”

The Dreamers

Group two are more idealistic. Adventure is not to be ripped from a single serve sachet, but crafted, painstakingly, from base ingredients. Trials and tribulations make the journey all the sweeter.

The late alpinist Kyle Dempster sums up this thought in the dying scenes of The Road From Karakol:

“Real adventure is not polished, it burns brightest on the map’s edges, but it exists in all of us.

And there are many that agree with him. Once Yasmin posted the location, more than a few people came to Calumn’s defence, saying that they enjoyed the search, the anticipation and the wonder that the post instigated.

Is it idealistic to expect our discoveries to be unique, hard-fought and obscure? Probably. Hell, if you’re a hardcore Dreamer simply using this website will make you drastically impure.

But in reality, Dreamers aren’t claiming that their adventures exist alone in the void. What dreamers are rejecting is the idea that adventures should provide instant gratification.

As Yasmin says, “Anticipation is a dying emotion.”

What are you seeking?

It’s a big question I know, and I don’t think there’s any one right answer. When it comes to the outdoors, I’ve been a Pragmatist and I’ve been a Dreamer. So please indulge me whilst I attempt to construct a rationale.

When travelling, whether overseas or interstate, there can be time pressures, so it totally makes sense to be a bit of a pragmatist. Seek out local knowledge or engage a guide if you have to, keeping goal orientated can help you to make the most of an experience you’ve (ironically) been dreaming about.

Just don’t let your adventures become too commodified. There’s no use ticking every box if your memories coalesce into a consumerist blur.

Say you’re exploring closer to home though. Relative to your situation, this could mean within reach of public transport, or anywhere in Australia and New Zealand. If you’re off on a weekend microadventure or a week-long escape and reset – do you really need a checklist? Must every detail be laid out before you leave? Must any detail?

Enjoy the journey. Start a roadtrip without a destination. Chase secret waterfalls. Tackle a tough expedition, not knowing if you’ll be rewarded for your troubles. Be a Dreamer.


Some notes:

  • “Be a dreamer” isn’t the same as “get yourself lost.” Please don’t get yourself lost.
  • I’m not sure if dreamers or pragmatists would be the kind of people who watch/don’t watch movie trailers. Let me know if you have an answer.
  • Are you a dreamer or a pragmatist? Are you both? Does it matter? I don’t reckon this discussion’s over.


Feature photo by @calumnhockey

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