Exploration, or in more recent times, adventurism, is all about pushing new boundaries. It’s the only way people can see what their limits are, find something undiscovered, or test the technology of the day.
I get that. In my own way, I’ve seen times where I’ve had to go outside my comfort zone or push through fatigue to accomplish certain goals. This is the way we grow personally or, as a society, how we innovate.
A lot of things come to mind. First ascents on difficult peaks. Mapping the depths of the ocean floor. Walking on the moon.
There are times, however, that I wonder if modern-day attempts to set records stray from the realm of exploration and adventurism and go headlong into hunting accolades.
In this space, I’ve written about Jordan Romero, the 13-year-old Californian who successfully climbed Mount Everest. In doing so, he became the youngest person to ever accomplish the feat.
I also included a post about 16-year-old Jessica Watson, the young Aussie who became the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the world in a sailboat solo.
These are serious achievements, regardless of age. But because of these kids’ ages, they also set records. That could lead to a degree of fame and potential riches in the form of book deals and such.
So a couple of questions come to mind.
First off, what’s next for these kids? We know Romero is also seeking to bag the Seven Summits, which means he has one more to go, Vinson Massif in Antarctica. I’ve also seen reports of how he wants to climb Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak.
I’m not sure about Watson’s future plans.
In any case, it will be tough to top what they’ve already done, at least in terms of notoriety. There are tougher deeds out there to be had, but it will be difficult to match the publicity these two received lately. Have they hit their prime too young? Can you grow past childhood achievements as you age, or will you forever be marked by what you did as a kid?
The good thing is that both will live to figure these questions out. But this brings up the next question: What now for these records?
Surely the temptation will arise for someone to break the records set by Romero and Watson. Some plucky 12-year-old will want a shot at Everest, or a 14-year-old will helm the next solo voyage around the globe. Where will it end? When is too young?
The question can be asked of a lot of similar ventures, such as the Nepalese man with no arms who wants to climb Everest. Pick your challenge (no legs, blind, oldest, youngest, etc.) and it will be attempted, either to stroke an individual’s ego or to somehow monetize the feat.
Here’s what would impress me. Find me some 12-year-old kid who climbs a big mountain, but doesn’t tell anyone about it except his friends and family. Find me a seventh-grader who sails the world, but does it just to see if she can. Or some guy with prosthetics who attempts El Capitan and succeeds. And all he gets is the satisfaction that he did it. It would be adventure for adventure’s sake.