“Nostrovia!” We push our plastic glasses together and vodka splashes down their sides. After 24 hours of hazy sunlight it was hard to keep track of time, which seemed to stand still as we enjoyed our last few moments of calm before the approaching storm. We were the transient residents of Barneo Ice Camp, a Russian-operated drift station on the frozen Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. We were an unlikely bunch, crowded around the makeshift table of the mess tent. Coats, masks and hoods had been peeled off in the warmth inside to reveal a group of Siberian soldiers, a few seasoned British explorers and a couple of very unseasoned adventurers (myself included). We had nothing in common save our united goal to reach the North Pole. It was the last night in the ‘comfort’ of the camp before we each set off on our different journeys.

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A few days later, the jittery military plane touched down and then skidded onto the runway at Longyearbyen, Svalbard. My phone started beeping angrily at me: “HOW WAS IT? HAVE YOU MADE IT BACK? DID YOU SEE ANY POLAR BEARS?” The illusion of the voyage was irrevocably broken.

I could understand why our guide continued to return to the North Pole year after year. Hannah McKeand, a record-breaking polar explorer, had been a regular young professional living in London until she decided that there must be more to life. She says these journeys are a way to gauge the Earth’s magnitude and power, as well as our tiny but significant place in the planet, explaining: “Only by climbing the mountains or stepping out across the deserts or setting our sails at the empty oceans can we allow the wild places meaning in our lives and acknowledge their existence in our world.”

Not all explorers are as candid when sharing their motivations. When I asked the world’s greatest living explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes the same question, he jokingly confided that he only does it “to pay the bills”. Perhaps it was understandable that Sir Ranulph avoided an answer; the rationale behind these kinds of epic journeys is often extremely complex. Often it starts with a desire to ‘escape’ the throes of modern-day life. This need has spiralled into a frenzy over the past few years as people scramble to get their 21 days away from the daily grind.

Kate Unsworth, founder of positive technology brand Vinaya, warns us of the ‘disconnecting’ effect technology is having on us, killing our connection with the environment and people around us. For better or for worse, technology has become such an important part of our lives that getting rid of it is a redundant suggestion. But if we look closer we can see that it’s not the technology itself that’s the problem, it’s our attitudes towards and management of technology that needs to change.

It’s no wonder that there is a clear need today to get away from it all, to re-focus on the ‘now’ and what’s important. We have seen travellers using so many different experiences and outlets to get that release – everything from holistic spas to festivals in the desert. Managing Editor Emily Ames spent a week in Arizona having her aura photographed, flailing around in aerial yoga classes and undergoing equine therapy sessions with the intent of achieving true ‘mindfulness’.

Luckily there is still so much of the unknown left to discover. While some countries are closing their doors, others are tentatively opening theirs to visitors. Iran is one of those countries, and we were excited to discover the truth behind its contradictory but increasingly positive narrative. Our writer Bex Hughes brings us with her on a guided tour of its rich cultural heritage and into the heart of its warm citizens.

Meanwhile festivalgoers searching for more ‘authentic’ experiences are heading to AfrikaBurn, a rawer version of Burning Man set in the African bush – where there isn’t an RV, gourmet chef or Google exec in sight. In Iceland, a sparsely populated destination that for years has attracted explorers and adventurists, a new growth in tourism has caused overcrowding at many of the country’s most famous sites. Our Head of Digital Maria Alafouzou and photographer Claudia Legge set off for the undiscovered parts of the country, including the West fjords, an area so difficult to navigate that they almost drove off a cliff attempting to get there.

In Australia the sheer vastness of the country frightened its first inhabitants who clustered around the coast. But seemingly infinite space has meant infinite possibility and a positive ‘can-do’ attitude colours both Sydney and Melbourne

However when it really comes to shaking off the shackles, it begs the question, what are people breaking free from? It is clear that over time humans have surrounded themselves with barriers. Cultural, social, political, economical, technological, geographic and chronological – these boundaries are sometimes visible; sometimes not. They give us structure and purpose and allow us to function better as a society.

But when parameters really start to limit us, they force us to break down all the paradigms that we previously thought dictated our lives. That’s when we need the pioneers to come in – those who are brave enough to embrace the uncertainty. These trailblazers reassess the boundaries and expand them in ways that can have a huge impact on our lives. They can do this with grand gestures, like the epic expeditions of Hannah McKeand and Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Or their impact can be more localised, like the way Mario Testino redefined the role of the fashion photographer. Being a pioneer can also simply mean leading by example, just like Margaret Zhang, the 22-year-old who is simultaneously studying law and influencing the future of Australian fashion. In some ways these people are no different to us – they too have 24 hours in a day – but they have the ability to venture into unchartered territories, and ensure that what they do with each minute really counts.

After having spent thousands of hours and hundreds of days pushing and pulling SUITCASE’s print magazine to where it is now, I have now found safe hands to carry the torch. It is with great pleasure that I write my last editor’s letter and hand over the print editions of SUITCASE to our very talented current Senior Editor Kate Hamilton, while I continue to charter new territory with the SUITCASE brand as CEO.

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