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When I first discovered hiking (bushwalking, tramping, trekking) I embraced maps and the ideas of getting from Point A to Point B. I’d walk, camp, walk again to the next point and repeat. I was walking through amazing landscapes and layering sights, sounds and smells of the mountains, forests, national parks and world heritage areas I’d visit.


And I really embraced the maps – I loved looking at the contours and the paths. I’d assess gradient and distance, effort and reward.


But now maps are more than getting me from A to B. They have additional layers attached to them.


Something important happened as my studies and professional life led to me understanding more about the complex intersection of landscapes, communities and travel. I realised that we need to do more than travel through a landscape. We need to travel within a landscape – to have conversations with these spaces that are shaped by human activity and also with the humans that have been shaped by these landscapes.


I still enjoy a map – I have various ones as wall art, representing places of significance for me. These maps and I are connected through experience, sounds, sights, smells, remembered interactions and stories.


We may still aim to get from Point A to Point B but as travellers within landscapes our experiences are framed by reflecting on the landscapes, how they fit into broader stories of sustainability and human use and how we, as travellers, can make a contribution to sustaining them and the communities who are part of them. These layers and taking the time to search for them, is partly what gives us an opportunity to have conversations with these landscapes. Landscapes have their own stories and our stories, experiences and travels intersect with them and also with the communities that share them.


As my conversations with communities and their landscapes occurred around the world, I began to focus on the ways landscapes get protected and the  benefits and the costs this can have for communities. As I understood more about this, our own roles as travellers came into sharper focus and I began to ask myself some questions: How can we travel within landscapes, so that we understand more about landscapes, communities and our roles in sustaining both? As travellers, what do we need to understand about travel and our own approaches to travel, to be able to contribute to protecting landscapes and their communities? My attempts at trying to resolve these questions in my professional life and my own travels have led very specifically to LoST.


How do we actually have a conversation with a landscape?


Our walks, cycling and paddling are connected to our sense of engagement, enjoyment, peace – these become our stories and why we do the things we do and go to the places we do.


But we run the risk in thinking like this of thinking that the landscapes are just a backdrop or a frame of reference – a place where we do these things. We run the risk of ignoring the importance of landscapes and their communities to us – as travellers, as people who are interested in the spaces we travel in and who are ultimately advocates for these and other places. So we also connect through these to the landscapes themselves – their stories – though we don’t always recognize we do this.


But there’s another broader context to this – these stories and connections are also influenced by broader social, cultural, economic, political and historical processes. The landscapes we travel in, and the communities who live there, deal with these broader contexts and processes.


This means our engagements are at once personal but also framed/influenced by broader processes. They are a complex set of relationships between ourselves, the landscapes and the socio-economic and political context within which they occur.


We walk and say that’s beautiful. It’s a highly personal perspective. But our engagement goes further than this, framed and influenced by beyond the personal experience.


There are therefore multiple stories of landscapes and their communities – and part of our conversation is understanding how these stories add to that which we are travelling in and also to our own experiences and engagements with place through our travels.


Landscape stories encompass those of ecological processes, political decision-making, cultural values, historical processes and community actions.



There are also our own traveler stories as we are a core part of all this – and our desire for conversations with landscapes shapes us as well as them. We don’t consume the landscapes we travel through as we go from A-to B – rather than travel through them, we travel in them.


Conversations remind us that these landscapes are not ecological:

  • They have these other dimensions
  • They face threats and challenges
  • People face challenges in protecting them
  • Their challenges are also our challenges and our responsibilities


Our conversations add to our understanding of landscapes, our travels and ourselves


For me, this has two related dimensions – there is that of the landscapes and our travels – the physical. Then there is us as travelers – searching for further information to support our conversations, and giving ourselves space to be able to critically reflect on what this means for us as travelers, the landscapes we travel within and also other landscapes that we advocate for. We give ourselves space for critical reflection of our travels and of us as travelers.


More about this through my Blog, our Communities of Practice and on my social media. Let’s start our own conversations