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The traveller

In pictures, we trace a winding trail from the Twenties to today

Kassia St Clair | September/October 2015

BY SEA HARRY PIDGEON, 1925
Travellers need to enjoy their own company: no matter how far they go, they’re always stuck within the confines of their own skulls. Harry Pidgeon, the first man to sail solo around the world twice, must have found himself endlessly fascinating. Born on a small Iowan farmstead in 1869, he had, by the time this shot was taken, journeyed to California, up to Alaska and back down the Yukon river, before sailing around the world in his self-built yawl, the Islander. Evidence suggests that he only grew tired of himself in his 70s, when, after another trip around the world, he announced himself “sufficiently ripe to give [marriage] a try”.

BY AIR AMY JOHNSON, 1930
It isn’t enough to get from A to B; to earn their stripes, true travellers must do it memorably. On May 24th 1930, Amy Johnson, armed with knickerbockers and pluck, flew Jason, her bottle-green biplane, onto an Australian airstrip and into history. She was the first woman to fly solo from Britain to the tip of its pink-fingered empire. The 20-day, 11,000-mile trip had taken her to map-dots – Jhansi, Aleppo, Tjomal – she was unlikely to have come across in her previous life as a typist. Small wonder she looks so pleased: the farthest she’d flown before was Hull.

BY BIKE ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS, 2015
“I’ve gone to sleep on a hill,” says Humphreys’s out-of-office e-mail. “I’ll be back in the shed on the 29th.” Such is the life of the 21st-century adventurer. Humphreys started down this career path when he graduated from university, in 2001, with no idea what to do “for a proper job”. Naturally, he decided to cycle around the world. Did he, to use the modern phrase, find himself? “Yes, by lunchtime on day one.” He hasn’t looked back since, and the simplicity and escapism of the explorer’s life keeps him coming back for more. He says there are drawbacks – self-promotion, while financially unavoidable, is a bugbear – but it’s a price he’s willing to pay to remain out of office.

 

PHOTOGRAPH Tif Hunter
STYLIST Crystal McClory


Orange packable cycling jacket, £399, by Paul Smith 531; black-and-white striped shirt, £99, by Oliver Spencer; Alpha Bravo Cannon backpack in khaki, £395, by Tumi; Galactic Unitime SleekT automatic watch, £6,650, by Breitling; GivR quick-drying jeans, £175, by Hiut Denim; belt, £70, by Rapha; Cloudrunner trainers £125, by On-running

ON BOARD CABIN ATTENDANT, 1957
There are many things to be said for the advent of budget airlines, but the quality of their in-flight tailoring isn’t one of them. In the 1950s, dressed in suits that meant business, a select few women like this BOAC hostess got paid to see the world while serving passengers shots of glamour with a smile. There were downsides: they had to keep their weight below 60kg, girdles were mandatory and marriage meant retirement. But the opportunity to make regular jaunts through the skies was worth a little suffering – as the owners of Ryanair and easyJet would no doubt agree.

IN STYLE PAUL BOWLES, 1952
If some travel just for the sake of it, others are running from something. It’s hardly surprising that the novelist Paul Bowles was in a rush to leave Long Island: his father had left him, as a baby, naked, next to an open window during a snowstorm. When he grew up, he set off for what an American in the 1930s might have thought the hottest, farthest place imaginable – Africa. His characters too, for the most part, stumbled across that vast continent, “belonging”, as he put it in “The Sheltering Sky”, “no more to one place than to the next.”

IN SPACE THE MERCURY SEVEN, 1959
It was 1966 before fiction caught up with fact and Captain Kirk first intoned “Space: the final frontier” from the deck of the Starship Enterprise – by which time NASA’s human spaceflight programme was seven years old. Like many of the great feats of the era, Project Mercury was born of one-upmanship between America and the Soviet Union. These seven frontiersmen, with their silver suits, conspicuously dangling zipper flies and spray-painted work boots, were plucked from military ranks that were then barely bruised by Vietnam. Their mission? To boldly push America’s influence into another dimension and, more importantly, far beyond the reach of the Soviet Union.

BY CAMEL ROBYN DAVIDSON, 1977
How can we do otherwise than admire the courage of those who set themselves against great distances and landscapes? At the age of 26, Davidson – an untrained anthropologist with an interest in nomadic tribes – left Alice Springs and began to walk a 1,700-mile line across the Australian outback to the Indian Ocean, alone but for three camels and a dog. Why? Was it to see the world differently, or to test herself; to make an impression, or to run away? Or was it just to live truly alone? Her own answer, in “Tracks”, her book about the experience, was simple: “Why not?”

ON FOOT HADZABE WOMAN, 2013
We are nearing the end of the hunter-gatherer era. It’s been a good run, some 200,000 years, but the Hadzabe of Tanzania are now one of the last truly nomadic peoples, still bringing home the bacon in the form of wild pig and upping stick-huts when food gets scarce. Like other nomads, they find their land being winnowed away by more settled agricultural neighbours. But perhaps the real evolutionary pressure is on those of us who work hard to put down roots, only to be afflicted by itchy feet – for travelling is part of the human condition.

ON THE ROAD “TWO-LANE BLACKTOP”, 1971
Three nameless men – known only as “the Mechanic”, “the Driver” and “GTO” – haplessly chase tail and tail-lights across state lines in a street race to Washington, DC, and glory. None reaches his destination, but that didn’t stop the film becoming a cult hit. Dennis Wilson, in his pomp as a Beach Boy when he was cast as the Mechanic, drowned 12 years later, a nomadic, alcoholic junkie disowned by his band. James Taylor, the singer who played the Driver, lived to release his 17th studio album this year. For the true traveller, the end is not the point; what counts is how you get there.

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