World's Most Dangerous Places
photo copyright © Robert Young Pelton


Sir Richard Burton is one of your greatest heroes. Are there any living explorers you admire? Any other living heroes out there you could name?
Despite what National Geographic would have you believe, the age of geographic exploration ended in the 19th century. There are no more explorers left. My heroes now are people who overcome great odds to change the world. Many of these people are rebel leaders, aid workers, mujahadeen and other non-Hollywood types. Frances Ona (the rebel leader in Bougainville) is an example of someone who has stuck by his principals of fighting a mining company to preserve a way of life. Shah Ahmed Massoud (Afghanistan) is another. Even aid worker Fred Cuny (who died in Chechnya) is an example of a new hero. They remain uncorrupted, focused and ultimately will not achieve their goal but will inspire others to continue.

Could you comment on the "adventure cocktail circuit" and literary boom in this segment?
I was just reading an article on Sebastian Junger who considers tree trimming dangerous and bemoans his newfound wealth. He writes about wars for fashion magazines and New York society circles. Sebastian is good writer and a good person but he is simply a gladiator entertaining the Romans. Even the editor of Men's Journal quit because they ran "12 weeks to a great body" on the cover instead of stories written by their staff. There is a voyeuristic quality to adventure and war now that smacks of fraud. These days it is more in vogue to wear the uniform than to fight the war.
Also people are fascinated by violence, war and horror because they live such dull safe lives.

At a time when the media is totally centered on info-tainment, how do you deal with it, and how do you deal with the way you are portrayed in the media?

I try to not project an image. I don't wrestle crocodiles, wear a Stetson or even plug my books. I question and challenge reporters instead of just answering their questions. I cut through the bullshit by reminding the media that there are
normal people living in these dangerous places and that they need our help. I also ask why it is only journalists that think they are allowed to enter a war zone when there is so much long term help and understanding needed. And most importantly I want them to stop and think about why they aren't doing what I am doing: helping people understand what is going on in dangerous places.


Is reality "the only true thing"?
Yes. From a solid understanding of what is real comes art, philosophy, intelligence and wisdom. Books, TV, and other secondary forms can always spark the imagination but the human body needs to be using all its senses and intellect to truly comprehend and compare.

You have survived bombings, a plane crash, accidents, shootings, and been in numerous war zones. What is your greatest fear?

Sitting around doing nothing. Or being prevented from doing what I do.

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versão em português |lost art