Visitors and exploration: my experience so far as an Explorer Volunteer

My friend recently asked me the question ‘if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?’ Her answer? Hiking in a mountain in New Zealand. And mine? Next to a log fire with a good book and some mulled wine.

In complete honesty though, I’ve never had the ‘travel bug.’ In fact, I’m not even really an outdoorsy person at all. Instead of being drawn to the physical act of travel and exploration itself, I’m more attached to the idea of it. Arguably this all started at university, where I studied a module that looked at travel throughout history, spanning from the explorations and discoveries of Herodotus and Thucydides to the discussion of tourism in the 21st century and how accessible the world is to us now in comparison with the past.

What therefore drew me to the Art and Science of Exploration exhibition within the Queen’s House was the desire to find out what ideas of exploration and discovery I might be able to obtain from those that visit the National Maritime Museum. And since starting as an Explorer Volunteer in October, there is no doubt that I have been wonderfully amazed by some of the incredibly thought provoking, interesting and precious stories that so many have so far shared.

What has become obvious is that through the discussion of exploration and travel, visitors create a link to their own personal discoveries, both of other cultures and of themselves. Just the other day for example I was speaking to a gentleman who was born in Australia, moved to New Zealand as a child and then, after studying architecture at university, decided to move to England in the 1960s. The reason for his move? So he could ‘experience more of the world.’ For me, this reiterates how strong a bond there is between the discovery of the ‘other’ and the discovery of our own self; through experiencing and analysing other cultures, people become far more self-aware and begin to define who they believe they are and what they feel their culture means to them.

A few weeks ago, a young girl studying at college summarised this perfectly, giving an exceptionally profound insight into what she believes is left to explore in the world; ‘History is yet to be made, thousands of billions of memories and moments to experience. There is no limit to exploration; it is unlimited.’

So even if you’re not a physical traveller like me, you can still be an explorer. Regardless of what you decide to do, be it climbing that mountain in New Zealand or simply visiting the local pub for a glass of mulled wine, taking one step out of your normal routine can be an exploration and you never know what discoveries you might end up making.

Blogpost written by: Josie Thorogood, Explorer Volunteer, Queen’s House

A snapshot of visitor responses to exploration questions:

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