How to Explore Like a Real Victorian Adventurer

An English diplomat in the area cautioned Burton to not be overly ambitious. This diplomat had heard the story of a French naval officer who was taken captive by native warriors. They tied the unfortunate man to a tree and slowly started to cut off each of his limbs.

After taking a break to sharpen their knives, they ended his misery by beheading him. The English diplomat insisted this was an accurate account.

Burton wasn’t shaken. Whether it be severed limbs or rolling heads, the most gruesome of omens could not dampen his enthusiasm before a venture into unknown lands.

His entire life he had attempted to convey a worldly attitude, with any form of naivete meeting with his open resentment, yet the sight of an untouched area on a map made him elated.

As he wrote in his journal prior to the expedition: “I believe one of the happiest moments in life is the beginning of a journey to unexplored regions. The blood flows with the youthful vigor of childhood.”

Ultimately, Africa would take a harsh toll on him. In the subsequent months, he experienced partial visual impairment, partial motor impairment, and high fevers. Additionally, his mind was plagued with hallucinations. Eating was made difficult due to a swollen tongue. H

Experiencing the Excitement of Exploring as a Victorian Adventurer

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A picture of a traveler venturing through breathtaking scenery is presented here. Exploring the world and its wonders is a fantastic way to spend time.

At the close of 1856, while in Zanzibar, Richard F. Burton and a team of porters were ready to explore the inner regions of Africa to discover the origin of the Nile River.

An evident rope-like scar was on Burton’s cheek, a memento from his most recent voyage where he was impaled by a spear from Somali warriors during an assault.owever, he ultimately managed to make it through and venture once again.

When he went through his 1856 journal many years later, he reflected on his pre-trip exuberance with the observation that it was “lively, but genuine.”

The period of Queen Victoria’s rule (1837-1901) in England was an era of active exploration, uncorrelated to the simultaneous introduction of steamships and telegraphs that were capable of shrinking the world.

Industrialization and the growth of colonial empires were catalysts for the vast changes in urban life, and railroads enabled the synchronization of clocks.

Matthew Arnold diagnosed this as a “strange disease of modern life” that began to consume people on a large scale.

A new type of explorer, which Burton embodied, began to appear. These individuals joined the “geographical societies” that appeared in London, New York, Paris, Berlin, and other major cities of the industrialized world.

Geographical explorations provided an escape from the ever-increasingly structured, regulated, and plain lifestyle.

What benefit would there be if the individual who ventured into the uncharted was not able to face its unpredictable difficulties? What would be the purpose of the journey if the explorer of the unknown was unable to truly observe it?

It became evident that travelers to distant places, even those as brave as Burton, required a purpose when tackling the puzzles of unexplored realms. They required assistance. They required instructions.

Victorian travelers typically brought along a collection of “how-to” guidebooks when they ventured into the wilderness.

One of the books Richard Burton carried with him to East Africa was the heavily annotated version of Francis Galton’s The Art of Travel

: or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries, which was commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society and was a must-read for any respectable 19th century explorer.

Before starting his expedition, he could look to page 134 of this book to gain insight on the proper way to go about exploring.

Whenever you need to roll up the sleeves of your shirt, bear in mind that the correct method is to roll them inwards, towards the arm, and not the other way round. Doing it this way, the sleeves will stay in place for hours without having to be adjusted;

whereas if the procedure is reversed, they will come undone every five minutes.

Galton’s index was full of unusual pieces of advice, such as “bones as fuel” and “savages, management of.” But if he did not find the appropriate advice, Burton could always look to another manual from his trunk, specifically crafted for explorers.

Randolph Barnes Marcy’s The Prairie Traveler: The 1859 Handbook for Westbound Pioneers, which Burton revised in further editions, had a clear ambition: “By having such a book,” Marcy commented.

“the explorer will feel as if they are the leader in the wilderness they are exploring, not the plaything of any unforeseen events that nature or destiny might throw at them.”

The purpose of the books was to provide practical advice.

if people are travelling the world, then why not educate them as to how to make observations–whether they be related to geography, anthropology, or anything else–which could be beneficial to science, industry, or government?

In the course of looking into a book concerning African investigation, I encountered The Art of Travel and went on to the other titles all of which can be accessed free of charge on the web.

After reading them, I can safely say that the technological, industrial, and political advancements of the hundred years that followed have significantly contradicted the initial motives of the majority of their authors.

These volumes won’t assist strong countries in claiming new lands and people to exploit. In the realm of literature, this genre is as defunct as can be.

It would be beneficial to bring it back.

It is a fact that the writers of these books are often peculiar and continually fixated, and sometimes amusingly wrong. A present-day reader will recognize many antiquated opinions that will bring about a feeling of being superior.

It may be funny when a person discusses the top shop to acquire a pith helmet in London. Nonetheless, this has nothing to do with the current importance of these books, which surpasses amusement.

Without anyone noticing, this overlooked genre evolved past its purely practical beginnings to a greater level: these books are like instruction manuals for the senses, offering carefully crafted advice on the skill of noticing.

Reading through these texts isn’t a swift process. Difficult language and meticulous punctuation necessitate slowing down. Nonetheless, this was highlighted by the pioneers of the period as the most critical initial step of any successful journey.

Richard Owen, renowned for his role as the superintendent of the Natural History Departments at the British Museum and as a scientific advocate for several of the era’s most ambitious voyages.

once opined that when exploring a foreign land, it is wise to take time to observe and appreciate the area at a pace of five to six miles per hour. Despite his later criticism of Darwin’s theories, his suggestion to travel slowly was at the forefront of the period’s beliefs.

The concept of taking one’s time and focusing on the journey rather than the end goal has become a trite phrase in travel literature. Contemporary authors who talk about this concept tend to be preachy and sanctimonious, but Victorian-era writers managed to avoid this. They went beyond simply recommending that travelers reduce their speed and gave them precise instructions as to what they should observe and how they should pay attention to it.

Harriet Martineau’s How to Observe: Morals and Manners (1838) and Colonel Julian R. Jackson’s What to Observe: The Traveller ‘s Remembrancer (1841) are two works that demonstrate this inclination.

In the preface of his book, Jackson, a secretary at the Royal Geographical Society, expressed a hope that readers will become motivated to pursue knowledge and research, due to the immense variety of physical and moral subjects open to exploration.

It is possible to discern a story from a simple glance, but if viewed thoughtfully, many stories can be found nested within that single surface.

As an example, Jackson highlights the importance of examining a mountain peak to determine if it is a “saddle-back,” “hog’s back,” or “sugar-loaf” to gain an understanding of the geological composition of the landscape, which can then lead to further knowledge about the potential vegetation, and so on.

Jackson devotes thirty pages to instructing explorers on the aspects of examining a river – from the shape of its surface to what kind of material it carries. He asserts that there is no such thing as a trifle detail. After reading a few dozen pages of this, his book has a transformative effect.

One looks up from the page and realizes that the environment is more intricate than previously thought. The tree outside the window captures one’s attention, and nuances in the temperature of the air and soil become discernible.

If one isn’t conscious, one can get drawn into a chain of ideas that is difficult to escape.

Jackson is aware of the risk associated with straying from the main topic, and he warns his readers to remain focused.

He recommends that those on an expedition should first ascertain if the locals engage in beekeeping, but emphasizes that it is important to observe the given matter before diverging to associated subjects:

“The tending of bees is usually not a single vocation and although the honey and wax obtained from them are important, we should now limit our discussion to the care of the bees themselves.”

In How to Observe, Martineau provides instructions on the best way to gain insight into human behavior.

In similar fashion to Jackson, she outlines what one should pay special attention to when observing–such as how criminals are treated, the hopes of children, and thoughts on marriage–and emphasizes the importance of noticing the specifics. Additionally, she displays a modern inclination to recognize how one’s perspective can twist their perception.

The explorer is implored to be willing to let go of preconceived notions and remain watchful against the tendency to view dissimilarity as a fault.

It is a challenge to learn how to observe the world accurately, yet discerning the distorted reflection of a foreign land is a requirement for all who unexpectedly find themselves in a puzzling domain:

“It is not easy to capture a goldfish in the water on the first attempt, even if one has sharp vision and the water is crystal clear; knowledge and technique are essential to be able to take what is literally before one’s eyes and within reach.

This is true for anyone who attempts to explore a new realm…”

In this period, photography was inconvenient, fragile, and quite difficult to employ in the wild. Because of this, many adventurers simply chose not to try.

Nonetheless, they were often obligated to deliver visual depictions of the places and people they came across to the geographical societies that funded them.

Burton, who was our tour guide into this undiscovered world, consulted authors like Jackson and Martineau to expand his field of vision, but he would delve deeper into his library of books when he needed a more precise focus.

A must-have book was The Elements of Drawing in Three Letters to Beginners penned by John Ruskin. After it was published in 1857, this guidebook was quickly taken up by explorers of all parts of the world.

The Royal Geographical Society’s Hints to Travellers (1854) was not the first to recognize the value of sketching and drafting while traveling, but Ruskin’s The Elements offered more specific, practical advice.

It can be said that just opening the pages of the book can sharpen one’s sense of sight. Without the use of cameras to document the details of a place, travelers had to hone the observational skills of an artist.

The Elements was designed to cultivate and refine their visual acuity.


The rose stands apart from other blossoms due to its alluring color gradations and intricate pattern of petals. Other flowers often lack the intensity of hue as well as the intricate structure, with many of them featuring patches and veins instead of flushed petals.


Ruskin did not have the idea in mind that his audience were would-be painters trying to become famous in the Louvre: “I am not trying to make a carpenter an artist, but to make him more content with his trade.” In today’s world of hyper-specialization,

it seems odd, not to mention a bit careless, to be so open to different fields. Yet the Victorians had no reservations when it came to selecting from various areas of study.

Burton was an incredibly accomplished figure of his time. He was versed in over 20 languages, wrote on a multitude of topics, and served as a spy and consul.

He even earned himself the reputation of being the best ethno-sexologist of his generation. Prior to his pilgrimage to Mecca, he chose to take on the role of an apprentice to a blacksmith in order to be prepared in the event he encountered mounts he could use, and required horseshoes.

Burton was an avid enthusiast during a period when the term was not considered an insult.

Travelers devoted to their craft were not confined to understanding the visual arts. William Gardiner’s The Music of Nature (1838) detailed techniques for creative listening to be employed while in the outdoors. Gardiner believed that any sound heard could both disclose and teach.

He used standard musical notation to notate the canter of a horse, the cry of a child, the yelp of a cur and the whine of a dog.

He suggested that people pay attention to all sounds that are heard outdoors, even the speech of the natives. He pointed out that the Nordic languages sound “less pleasing” because of the cold climate, as the act of speaking is largely done in the throat.

Gardiner is passionate when describing the melodic chirping of the cricket, which he notes is composed of three tones in the key of B that are arranged in a triplet rhythm. In the wild, this sound is a prominent part of the overall chorus of nature.

Jackson suggested that explorers should check to see if the native population keeps bees. Gardiner is able to expand on this query, revealing that bee hives have bees called “fanners” which use the constant flapping of their wings to ventilate the hive.

Gardiner suggests that if one listens closely to a hive’s exterior, they will be able to hear the mezzo tones created by the fanners, who create a serene melody when they flap their fragrant wings; the pitch of this sound is in the key of F.

Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, humorously challenges the members of geographical societies by suggesting it is pointless to travel around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.

Occasionally, he appears to be commenting on passages found in Galton or Marcy’s handbooks. At other times he appears to be directly addressing Burton.


What do Africa and the West represent?


Is not our own inner white dot on the map?… If you wish to understand every language and follow all cultures, journey further than any explorer, become a part of all societies, and even make the Sphinx smash its head against a rock, then obey the advice of the ancient philosopher and explore yourself.


Forget about Zanzibar, in other words.

Henry David Thoreau did not mention this in his book, but he was fond of expeditionary literature and the travel narratives of his contemporaries.

He had a particular admiration for the writings of Burton and other authors such as Martineau, Owen, Ruskin and Gardiner, as evidenced by the references to them in his journals.

Thoreau had a great appreciation for the books of exploration, understanding their value and practicality even more than their authors did.

The knowledge they provided could be used to explore Zanzibar, but Thoreau also recognized the usefulness of these books in a much quieter place, like Concord, Massachusetts.

The same could be said for anywhere else in a world that is increasingly more worn out and overpopulated.

Thoreau noted in his journal that it is beneficial to view one’s hometown as if they were merely a visitor in the area.

An idea exists.

At the age of sixteen, when I obtained my driver’s license, I was very familiar with the Cross County Mall in Mattoon, Illinois. I saw the mall as a symbol of the Silk Road in my small world, a place that was the eastern border of my universe and had imported products.

I never ventured any farther on my bicycle; all that existed beyond the mall was an interstate and vast fields of corn – the ultimate edge of my world.

My life has changed since my youth. My parents are still located in Mattoon, but I rarely go back to the mall where I spent so many hours playing video games when I was younger. To me, now, it is simply a building that I pass by when leaving the town.

One of many in the United States; the Bureau of the Census reports that there are about 50,000 shopping malls in America. Even if I never go back for the next twenty years, it will still be the most recognizable spot in the world to me.

Early one morning, I drove into the mall parking lot armed with a Kindle filled with e-guides such as The Art of Travel, What to Look At, How to Observe, Tips for Travellers, Elements of Drawing, The Music of Nature and The Prairie Traveller.

Jackson recommended I begin by taking in the geography of the area, which has been leveled by an ice sheet that passed through here around twenty thousand years ago.

This landscape is subject to strict physical laws, so if you observe an interstate overpass, it’s likely that a tiny man-made pond will be within view, a few hundred yards away.

Comprising three-hundred-thousand square feet, the shopping mall I was in had a JCPenney at one end and a Sears at the other.

Adhering to Owen’s speed limit, I traversed the space between the two stores in a leisurely manner, taking precisely two minutes and three seconds to complete the journey.

Heeding Galton’s counsel, I was alert to my initial observations. The many signs of the current financial difficulties were evident and demanded to be noticed.

Out of the 38 available places, 16 were empty. However, the mall did not have an atmosphere of desolation; it was somewhat cramped.

In the central lobby, there were a number of stalls selling items ranging from hunting knives to metal dragons to collectible dolls. Although there were still good products in the stores that remained, these tables were on a lower level of retail and were evidently taking over.

Instead of the familiar spots of my childhood, the video-game arcade and ice-cream parlor, they had been replaced by a General Nutrition Center and Community Blood Services. As I arrived at Sears, I had the sad feeling of treading through a world without happiness.

I stopped and sat down on a metal bench in the center of the concourse, and got out my Kindle containing PDFs. Martineau’s advice encouraged me to observe the “character of the Pride” in a place–determine what motivates them to express their views, and you’ll be able to comprehend their moral standards.

My attention was immediately drawn to a T-shirt table in the middle of the shopping mall. The first shirt I saw had the acronym GPS with other words in smaller letters underneath. Being an explorer, I naturally moved over for a closer look.

It said, if you are ever lost, use GPS – God’s Plan of Salvation.

I recalled Jackson’s advice in his chapter on examining the religion of an unfamiliar place, which stated to search for evidence that could answer the question “What must be done in this life to achieve joy in the afterlife?” I spotted several hints on the T-shirt table, one of which read, “in order to reach paradise, you must first endure hardship.”

I made a note in my pocketbook related to my initial thoughts and wrote, “It is clear Christianity is in control here, and it appears to be a hard-fought victory.” In Hints to Travellers, the author suggested that adventurers label their observations as “good,” “very good,” “doubtful,” and so on. Hence, I confidently wrote “v. good” in the margin.

The initial page of the notebook can be seen as a warm-up, filled with ephemeral observations. It’s easy to see that when this Midwestern community is not outwardly expressing its religion, it is often flaunted on its clothing. As I meandered away from the T-shirts, the tenacious focus fostered by these books began to uncover more subtle patterns.

According to Jackson, the style of lettering used by a society is “significant and revealing of the national mentality, and thus, worth considering when travelling.

” When I entered the Kirlins Hallmark store, I noticed that cursive fonts, which appeared to have been written with a delicate pen, were featured on the majority of sympathy cards. Block-like lettering, which had an unrefined look, were typically associated with either humorous or children’s cards.

The facts I had uncovered led me to closely examine the signs in the mall, where I noticed clear symbolism in every corner

. The thin font used for beauty products suggested a lack of acceptance for body types that don’t fit the ideal (you won’t find many bold, bulky fonts in Bath & Body Works).

RadioShack had a strict no-serif policy, which is usually associated with products that are traditional and classic (like in the Lands’ End clothing section at Sears). Every letter in the mall seemed to be carefully crafted with a specific purpose, as if it had been tested for optimal results.

The mall had suddenly become far more intricate than it had been just moments before.

The lesson to be learned from the many “how to explore” books was this: when one looks closely, each element of the environment reveals a purpose and is more intricate than our senses can comprehend.

There is no need to feel discouraged, as even in the current age of being bombarded with images, there is still much left to discover. As Ruskin once said:


It is impossible to see more of the world by going quickly, as there is always more to see than can be discovered. In the end, it will be realized that all the efforts to dominate time and space have failed, because they are unconquerable and do not require domination, but rather require utilization.


I spent some time attempting to catalogue the aromas I could discern and track them to their origins: the dyed fabrics at Maurices clothing store; the brushed suede of Payless Shoes; and the jasmine-and-sandalwood of the Elder-Beerman cosmetics counter.

I was trying to single out the distinct smell of the electronics section at Sears (could I really pick up a faint hint of burning circuits?) when a three-year-old boy and his mum came over to take a look at the .

The kid just wouldn’t stop talking: “I want this one! I want this one!” Every ten seconds or so he’d emit a loud, raspy, three-note trill like a beluga whale. My focus was ruined and I lost the scent.

Then it dawned on me that I had my electronic voice recorder with me–something I’m sure the writer of The Music of Nature would have kept on their person if they were living in this era. I quickly grabbed it out of my pocket and started to record the young boy’s voice without him noticing.

For the following period of time, I recorded the individual units of noise that altogether formed the mall’s noise.

The vibrating sound produced by the refrigerator at Mom’s Legendary Foods. The sound of the water fountain in the middle of the concourse. The squeaky wheel of one of the strollers in the main entrance area. The speedy percussion of a cash register.

I have sometimes been concerned that I may have been too indiscriminate in my observations when I was at the mall.

As Emerson had warned, this type of behavior can lead to a person becoming like a child, unable to discern between anything, captivated by every small detail, never able to look at the bigger picture.

They become “the fool of their senses, commanded by every sight and sound, without any power to compare and rank their sensations, taken by a whistle or a painted chip, to a lead dragoon or a gingerbread-dog, individualizing everything, generalizing nothing, delighted with every new thing…

” Therefore, it is important to ignore some things for the sake of one’s mental wellbeing.

It is undeniable that the strategies listed in these books may be utilized in an inappropriate way, and should be used judiciously.

However, I was beginning to uncover untouched territories within the ordinary, and it seemed as if I was starting to rectify a discrepancy that had taken hold in the p when I used to cycle to the mall in order to play Galaga or Tempest with coins, spending hours entranced by a digital screen. Video games instruct players on how to quickly respond to abrupt modifications in the visual landscape, an ability that scientists now refer to as “target vision.” Young gamers–those who don’t need to go to arcades–

Those who spend countless hours playing video games in the comfort of their own homes can often become quite skilled at them.

However, too much of this kind of practice can lead to a decrease in the ability to anticipate change, known as field vision.

This kind of awareness is based on being proactive instead of responding to what is already happening, and if it’s not cultivated, the overall context of the situation may be overlooked.

The Victorians viewed this type of observation as a vital capability when venturing into strange and perplexing areas.

This is still the case today. Next to Sears, a single-serving carton of milk was found spilt.

After studying Galton, the sight took on additional fascination: he stated that milk, when spread on paper and exposed to low heat, functions as an invisible ink, useful for travelers in dangerous locations.

The GNC storefront display, with its tags marketing protein supplements and antioxidants, was like a sociological article.

The cacophony of the mall’s concourse, recorded on my digital recorder, and then deciphered by means of music-studio software, revealed itself as a melody in the key of B-flat major.

While the shriek of a toddler, rather than being a cause of annoyance and distraction, sounded like a perfectly pitched D.

Other Options You May Consider

The utilization of technology in the academic environment has been steadily increasing in recent years. As a consequence, it has become more and more common for students to have access to various forms of technology while learning.

This has served to revolutionize the way in which educational institutions teach and their students learn.

The utilization of technology in academia is on the rise, and it is increasingly common for students to be presented with technological resources during the learning process. This has had a major impact on the way educational establishments educate and pupils comprehend.

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