After having made a name for himself as a writer and actor for British comedy Monty Python, Michael Palin has gone on to become one of the most accomplished travellers of the 21st century, chronicling his escapades through both writing and film, which has made for some truly spectacular books and documentaries. To mention just a few; in 1980 he quite literally followed in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg – the protagonist of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, traveling the breadth of the globe on as close a path he could as that described in Verne’s story. He has also travelled from the North to the South Pole, crossed the Sahara desert and explored the Himalayas.
Kira Salak was once hailed by the New York Times the ‘real-life Lara Croft’. The now-46 year old, who was born in Chicago, the USA, first back-packed at the age of 24 when she took a year out of graduate school to trek across Papua New Guinea – becoming the first woman ever to have done so. And she hasn’t stopped since. Salak has visited Madagascar, Iran, Mozambique and Peru to name but a few, kayaked down the Niger River, cycled across Alaska and still shows no sign of slowing down.
Rolf Potts has exceled at what may seem a simply impossible feat to many – vagabonding. That is to say, he has mastered the art of extended travelling with little money and next to no luggage – just a steadfast determination, inspiring perseverance and pure ambition – and his part philosophical, part autobiographical, part guidance book offers advice on how to do just that. Besides Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, Potts writing has been featured by the likes of National Geographic, Outside Magazine and The Guardian.
Matthew Kepnes (AKA Nomadic Matt) is a travel blogger from Boston, America – and rather a good one at that. Acclaimed by virtually every major publication imaginable – Time Magazine, Lonely Planet, BBC, National Geographic… since 2006 Matt has lived on the road and encouraged his loyal and adoring legion of followers to do the same. His website encourages readers to ‘turn your dream into a reality’ offering advice on how to ‘see more for less’.
Social media –Instagram and Tumblr in particular, as well as blogs and forums, has undeniably changed the nature of travel and tourism. Such platforms allow quite literally any individual to establish a presence and instigate a career in almost any industry – be it photography, writing or art. One such individual, whose stunning Instagram journal of his travels across the world has earned him world-wide fame, is Murad Osmann. Osmann photographs his wife in various locations across the globe, from Las Vegas to the Taj Mahal, Bali to Moscow. The resulting images are dazzling- colorful, almost surreal.
A household name in modern-day travel writing, Bill Bryson is arguably one of the most famous non-fictional authors of his generation. An ambitious, incredibly intelligent and wonderfully-witty man, Bryson’s books, which include Notes From a Small Island, Down Under and The Lost Continent are characteristically humorous and very accessible travelogues which are almost always greeted with great critical and commercial acclaim upon their release.
Dame Freya Madeline Stark was an incredibly forward-thinking young woman. Born in Paris in 1893, to an Italian-Polish mother and an English father, Stark defied the societal restrictions enforced upon both her gender and race, travelling extensively throughout her life across the Middle East and particularly Afghanistan – to places where few Westerners had ventured before her. She wrote and published a number of profound, incredibly perceptive books chronicling her brave journeys, including The Valleys of the Assassins and Other Persian Travels and A Winter in Arabia.
To say that Geoff Mackley is a dare-devil would be something of an understatement. A freelance photographer originally from Auckland, New Zealand, Mackley seeks out the most dangerous locales on the planet. He has been known to descend over volcanic craters as they erupt (withstanding temperatures of over 2000 degrees), delve into the eye of a raging storm and edge towards the shoreline as violent tidal waves lash down upon the beachfront. His video footage, needless to say, is quite breath-taking.
A prominent member of a well-known and rather accomplished family (documentary-filmmaker Louis Theroux and novelist Marcel Theroux are his sons, writers Alexander and Peter Theroux his brothers) Paul Theroux is a much-awarded travel writer himself. Arguably his most famous work is The Great Railway Bazaar which documents a four-month train journey through Europe, the Middle-East and south-east Asia. Though Theroux’s impressive oeuvre also includes The Kingdom by the Sea (chronicling his travels through Britain), Riding The Iron Rooster (a journey though China) and Dark Star Safari (his adventures from Cairo to Cape Town).
Jessica Watson is the youngest person to have ever circumnavigated the southern hemisphere solo. Setting sail from Sydney on 18th October 2009, Watson traversed the Pacific Ocean, briefly ascending into the northern hemisphere as she did so, before skimming the southern tip of South America, crossing the Atlantic, passing underneath the African continent, crossing the Indian Ocean and finally circling back around to Sydney on 15th May 2010. She has since, and rightly so, been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.
By Hannah Bergin