Part of the allure of a remote place is that the closer we get to it, the more we risk everything that made it precious. For years, Mount Everest inspired a sense of forbidden majesty, which was surmounted only by a few courageous adventurers. It helped that they were entertaining and we were content to immerse ourselves in the stories they wove from these monumental expeditions.
In 2019, life-changing experiences are more easily found. This is probably why, when a photo of tourists lined up outside Everest’s summit, as though it were some check-in counter at an airport dispensing visas, was widely debated three months ago, the overwhelming emotion was deflated acceptance. No one in this day and age will be denied their Edmund Hillary moment.
In February, the New York Times ran a panicked headline about another solitary paradise, which had long been removed from sustained tourist interference—the Galápagos. “Going to the Galápagos Is Easier and Cheaper Than Ever. That Might Not Be a Good Thing,” it warned. According to the article, “in 2017, 2,41,800 people visited the islands, up from 1,73,419 a decade earlier.”
I am not highlighting these concerns as a spoilsport to anyone’s dreams. Travellers have earned their right to be wherever they choose to be. Even more so, seeking out the elusive is neither new nor groundbreaking; people were born of this earthly garden and returning to its comforting delights is the most primal of escapes. But the irony of how long we have this profusion of wilderness has not been lost, especially while we look towards the outdoors for constant nourishment and inspiration.
Despite the arguments in favour or against these developments, NGTI’s August edition remains an ode to bona fide outdoor enthusiasts, a sincere testament to how faraway mountains, hidden islands, sweeping canyons continue to wield a magnetic pull over us. We have packed this issue with epic journeys: a 10-day road trip from Iceland’s deep grey volcanic outback, a tropical joyride in Fiji, a playful encounter with wildlife in New Zealand and a first-time skier’s tentative venture onto the slopes of Tahoe.
While enjoying these wonderful reads, try to think of that sagacious advice, often doled out when restlessness sneaks its dreary head—“Why not go outside? Get some fresh air?” The outdoors are great for us, this much has been proven. The question now is, can we be great for the outdoors too?
Lakshmi Sankaran fantasizes about a bucket-list journey to witness the aurora borealis someday. Editor in Chief at National Geographic Traveller India, she will also gladly follow a captivating tune to the end of this world.