Editor’s Letter | The Other Issue – November 2016
This month's long reads looked at adventure from a different angle
What does the word “other" mean? It looks like a totally innocuous adjective, not worthy of much attention. But actually it’s a word laden with connotations. Literally it just means something distinct from something that’s already been discussed. Ask any English professor however and they’ll tell you that “the other" refers to the marginalised, the less well-known, the alternative, the different.
It’s in that context that we hit upon calling November’s collection of long reads on Mpora “The Other Issue". We wanted to take a look at people, places and approaches to adventure that were different, alternative, or outside of the perceived norms.
“Foster’s study involved foraging for food on all fours, defecating in people’s back gardens and eating worms like a badger."
We always try to explore unusual destinations, but this month’s travel stories are particularly interesting. This isn’t because they’re especially far flung (they’re certainly not as ‘out there’ as Afghanistan or Kyrgyzstan, both of which we’ve covered in the past), but rather because they’re less obvious alternatives to better-known areas nearby.
Yet as Alf Alderson found when he went surfing in Pembrokeshire – just across the water from the crowded northern coast of Cornwall – trying the alternative often means you can enjoy the same quality of waves or terrain without the crowds. I found the same exploring the Eastern Cape, the lesser-known of South Africa’s two southern cape provinces.
Elsewhere this month we looked at familiar destinations from an “other" angle. Deputy editor Stuart Kenny travelled to Madeira – an island whose tourist scene is dominated by retirees – with his mountain bike and found some of the gnarliest and most challenging trails he’d ever ridden. He also ventured northwards to Finnish Lapland and discovered that there is more to the country than the Santa Claus stereotypes. Meanwhile a mountain bike trip to Umbria showed us another side to a region of Italy that’s best-known for its food and wine. If you know where to look there’s also some truly spectacular riding.
Our “other issue" also examined alternative approaches to adventure. Alan Parsons and Andrew Mossop ran along the entire 1,100km length of Poland’s Vistula river – something that no-one had ever done before – and found it gave them a new perspective on the country where they live. This month we also interviewed the bushcraft master Ray Mears who talked about the traditional techniques he’s learned from tribes who have been marginalised by modern society.
If Mears was fascinating, then this month’s other interviewee, Charles Foster, was arguably even more so. An academic and naturalist, he took a truly radical approach to understanding the lives of the foxes, deer and badgers he was studying – by attempting to live like them. This involved foraging for food on all fours like a deer, defecating in people’s back gardens as an urban fox and eating worms like a badger.
It might sound completely crazy, but Foster found that his experiments rapidly altered his perspective and gave him a new understanding, not just of animals, but of humans too. “We [as a species] are terrifically racist, and xenophobic. We hate anything other than ourselves," he told associate editor Jack Clayton. Foster views this closed-mindedness, whether it’s towards humans who are somehow different to ourselves or towards other species, as a dangerous instinct.
The world of adventure sports has always prided itself on being alternative and unusual, on existing outside of the mainstream. We hope that this month’s focus on “the other" inspires you to explore somewhere different, to take an alternative approach, and to keep an open mind to the world around you.
Enjoy the adventure
- Tristan, Editor-in-Chief