svalbard

This article appears in Volume 25: The Pioneer Issue.

My inbox is swamped with promises. My smartphone is full of snake-oil salesmen. And don’t even get me started on the messiahs beaming from my television screen. It’s a funny thing, our modern world of influence – of false prophets and pop idols, likes and heart-eyes. Against a backdrop of endless awards shows, hot lists and polarised politics, it can seem like we’re drowning in visionaries. The notion of the pioneer has been aggressively packaged, marketed and sold, our hunger for something (or someone) to staple our hopes to diluting this very dream of a saviour just as the challenges facing us escalate.

Order Vol. 25 However, every action breeds a reaction. As the cult of personality has resurfaced, so has the power of the movement. For our 25th issue we wanted to map the people and concepts daring to alter the way we travel – but rather than targeting “influencers” or tech billionaires, we discovered individuals and whole communities quietly carving out conduits for change and pioneering a new kind of world, for the planet and all those who inhabit it.

When it comes to safeguarding our environment, the African savannah has become a battleground in recent decades as its rarest species dwindle at the weapons of poachers. The travel company andBeyond is tackling the situation head-on with its innovative rhino translocation programmes in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. The champion freediver Hanli Prinsloo has spent much of her adult life below sea level – she recalls how her encounters with dolphins and whales triggered an all-consuming desire to preserve the sense of freedom she found there.

Understanding the commonalities between ourselves and seemingly faraway places and people is essential in order to travel responsibly. I followed in the footsteps of earlier explorers to the vast, Arctic wilderness of Svalbard, where I discovered a community of souls determined to protect rather than plunder its threatened shores. The photographer Chris Burkard has dedicated his work to exploring such remote lands – as he explains, “How can we expect change to occur in any capacity unless we show people why they should care?”

To pioneer often means to challenge our expectations. Indonesia’s Banda Islands were once seen as a trading floor for precious nutmeg, but our writer established an altogether more peaceful synergy with its rolling waves and mountains. In Madagascar our Digital Editor-in-Chief learned to abandon conventional travel narratives in an off-road expedition through its coastal villages, while the photographer Aron Klein had to submit to the rigours of the winter reindeer migration alongside Norway’s indigenous Sami tribe.

Steve McCurry has forged a career from locating our shared humanity in his arresting portraits, often captured in times of conflict and strife. Cities around the world are wrestling with shifting identities – in the Lebanese capital of Beirut contemporary creativity is attempting to heal a war-torn past, whereas in the “swamp” of Washington DC art, activism and commerce are blending to question what it means to be an American today.

In order to overcome external barriers we first need to unlock our own potential. A series of retreats in Italy, Spain and Bali  aim to equip guests with the tools to tackle obstacles, while on the other end of the spectrum “survivacations” use extreme experiences to spark internal transformation. As the controlled use of psychedelics becomes more accepted, it’s even possible that the next great journeys will take place within the parameters of our own minds.

Above all, to be a pioneer today is to create space for change to occur. Twenty-five issues since we began, we feel hugely privileged to provide a platform for the destinations, concepts and communities that are mapping new routes across the globe.

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