It’s a small world and getting smaller.
The endless march of technology means that now live video can be sent across the planet from destinations previously only accessible to wanderers who came equipped with their own camel.
Add to the wireless data-sphere the modern cultural imperialism with CNN, MTV and consumer culture multiplying across the planet like a virus bent on making everyone the same, and it’s a poor picture for the traveler in search of the unknown.
You might well arrive in Outer Mongolia to be offered a Coca-cola, watch the latest Beyonce video and sit in an internet café to report back to friends and family on how you’re dealing with the culture shock.
Yet the appearances can be misleading. Whilst the guidebooks do their best to mention every town and village on the map, the researchers don’t actually go to all these places – or not for more than a few minutes if they do. So if you’re looking to go somewhere new then all you have to do is buy a map, find somewhere not mentioned in the Lonely Planet and hit the road.
Of course, when you really do get off the beaten-to-a-pulp track then there’s likely to be a dearth of people speaking English, internet cafes and cutesy cafes serving banana pancakes. You may have to drink some pretty rough drink with the locals, persuade someone to let you sleep in their basement and basically be the lone ambassador for your country, as you may be the only foreigner these people will ever meet.
And if this guide brings the first footsteps of backpacker doom to these hidden parts of the planet? Well, if we ever big enough to have an effect like that then we’d be filthy rich (and consequently too busy with private harems) to give a damn…