On Thursday 5th October, The Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) promised an inspiring speech from the expedition leader, writer and television presenter Will Millard. Even the title: ‘Life with the hunters of the South Seas’, sparked interest and intrigue. Just by reading up on Millards’ experiences on his website, it is clear to see he is a man who has an immense interest in South Eastern Asia, and has many exciting tales to tell. However, this was very different to hearing about these experiences from the man himself.
He was tall, with short, blonde, curly hair and admitted that he looked far from an explorer. Despite this, his passion and enthusiasm for travelling and exploring new cultures was almost tangible. He revealed many stories to the audience, explaining what he learnt about the different tribes he lived with. One common factor of all the tribes was their reliance on nature, and how their life revolved around the ecosystem and geography around them. One video clip Millard showed from his BBC documentary depicted an Indonesian tribe he was living with temporarily who fish to depths of up to 50 metres without any mechanic aid apart from goggles they make themselves. One of the men from the tribe stated he “spent [his] whole life in the ocean” to learn all the techniques for fishing and provide for his family. This was a clear contrast to the ways in which many privileged people living in the West around the world believe that nature should adapt itself around their population, rather than the other way around.
Millard also touched on his geographical outlook on his travels whilst telling a story about his time living with the people of Korowai in west Papua New Guinea. He was living amongst tree-top houses which over-look the canopy of the rainforest. Being a Geographer myself, I was intrigued to learn that he stated it was easier to observe the different characteristics of the rainforest at this great height. These characteristics included: atmospheric changes, useful warnings for storms and clearer views of opportunities for the next meal!
Millard spoke of many captivating encounters and tales, which proved that exploring comes with its physical, moral, communicative and logistical problems. However, he did not hesitate to emphasise just how exploring and adventuring to new places not only broadens your horizons and outlook on the world, but enhances your knowledge of your own endurance and ethics. It was clear that the talk had been as inspiring as the RSBS had advertised when Millard ended with “Life is for living, you have to do everything you can to expand your understanding of other people, to try to appreciate where people are coming from and to travel as much as you can. Life is the greatest gift of all and you’ve got to try and hang on to it”.
Image: Sara Konradi