Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

Civilised trimmings & techno Grumpiness


Roughly two months into the trip, and before leaving Fairbanks, we stayed a night in a hotel for the first time. You may think it was a luxury, an indulgence after completing the Dempster, or a miniature celebration on entering the U.S. again. It could be viewed as a civilised respite from the cramped living quarters on the road, a desperate attempt to feel human again before heading north on the Dalton Highway, or possibly just another change of scenery. In truth, as a human, I sometimes feel that seeking out a hotel is sadly a modern necessity, and rather than being a stress reliever, it’s a stressful relief. As a social pinball, half of my personality enjoys the sporadic unknown and the challenge of new interaction, the optimism which is required for unplanned arrangements and possible mishaps, and the diarised recordings, learnings, and shared aspects of an adventure. My other half doesn’t want to be anywhere near either the commercialised humdrum of society that lives on pre-packaged and “convenient” individual life servings, or the expense of such menial and assumed necessities.
While relaxing and appreciating a king size, clean sheeted, air conditioned hotel room, I managed just two hours of sleep….and not because I had a sordid distraction. Compared to bedding down in the camper or a tent, or even under the stars, that’s a pitiful tally of hours which I could have spent dreaming. At least in remote, quiet locations – where bedtime normally occurs – there are few distractions other than making sure bugs are out, the temperature is as best as it can be, it’s dry, and that I don’t get caught camping somewhere I possibly shouldn’t be. I’m not moaning about the smells, sights or sounds of civilisation – because I love to dip my cultural fingers in the orgy of social mixes – but my own urgency to be occupied with technological conveniences, which are absent in the wild, desperately and sometimes frustratingly, I’m drawn to be connected to.

I realise that with adventure, comes sacrifice. I miss people and aspects of life in places around the world I call home. With remoteness, various priorities are substituted. With absence of specific responsibilities or people, numerous views on civilisation, and what being civil is in general is reflected on. As a social moth in my luxury hotel, I spent six hours into the night (with the sun not setting outside) trying to make the most of wifi. It consumed me, but it relieved the storage memory on my gadgets, delivering some (not all) of my updates to the internet. When travelling daily, recording notes, photos, emotions, experiences, and in my case, brainstorms over future adventures, as well as trying to connect to the world everyone is so familiar with, is problematic. In multiple countries where I don’t have a mobile phone or unlimited connectivity – which normally doesn’t exist because I’m miles from civilisation or a mobile network – it’s almost impossible to connect at all. More drastically, when connection does show up, it’s normally pathetically slow, and I need to spend nine hours in a commercial coffee shop trying to be efficient (nine hours in Starbucks, by the way, is mind numbing). In short, a hotel with decent wifi and a shower is a necessity rather than a luxury, as rest isn’t a priority. It’s a vain scenario, but I spend time storing all the intimate details of what really goes on in the forests so I can line the pages of a pending book (I don’t tell you everything!) and I can’t do that on the road if I substitute an internet connection, for sleep.

I may be in the United States, but freedom to quickly connect to the world and utilise everything that western technology allows, is rarely optional in the wilds of its countryside. I’m in a minority, but I do appreciate having the option to disconnect, often for long periods. Something society thinks is unusual and unhealthy if done for too long.

I do hate the hoops that modern technology makes people jump through, but if I harked back to posting letters and diaries to myself, there’d be different kinds of restrictions and costs, and an even more remote chance of satisfying both the social adventurer and the curious beast inside me. I also think about how modern, personal dynamics urge people to move away from conversational, intimate, and face to face interaction. Something I enjoy with strangers I meet, but miss terribly with those I don’t see for long periods. Sourcing an adventurous lifestyle in the modern world, as well as coming from a loving environment and a grounded emotional place which I find hard to spend time away from, is a difficult balance. I miss people.

Today, after a couple of hours sleep, my concerned copilot asked if I was actually enjoying the trip. If I was getting out of it, what I expected. A city stop, albeit a necessity, gave me a weary disposition and I appear lacklustre and grumpy. I showered twice in the last 12 hours, used a flushing toilet, did a batch of laundry in a machine, acquired a free toilet roll from the hotel cleaners cart, and connected myself to an invisible network that allowed me to create more invisible space on a screen. It was an exceptional day. When I’m in the wild however, it’s easier to find a very different, and much simpler kind of connection. Yes, I’m enjoying myself. Often there is a little rough with the smooth, and you can make up your own mind which one the hotel is.

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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, most of my time is spent between Malawi and Europe.
Go Untamed Safaris was striding into top gear, but volatile poitics in 2019, Covid in 2020, the impacts of Russia vs the World as well as insesent corruption forced my hand.
The dust is now settling. Everything has changed. New chapters are about to be written.

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