Adventure is not outside… it is within. -George Eliot


Over the past few months, I have had dozens of people ask me why we explore. The more interesting question, to me, is not why we explore but why everyone else stopped exploring. Exploration is not a process of learning something new as much as a process of rediscovering what you lost. As the polar explorer Erling Kagge has pointed out, we are all born explorers. Our first acts as new beings in the world are acts of discovery. We try risky things, we overextend our imaginations, we venture out, we are often pushed back. We learn through failures as much as successes.



Often when people ask this question, there is a glimmer of desire in their eye. However tired I may be of answering it, it’s an avenue for people hold out their hand to what’s been lost and that causes me to strive to pay attention because the question behind the question is, I think, “where did you find it and can I find it too?” Of course you can, it’s like eating or fucking, it’s right there on the cusp of desire.


A few months ago, The Murkalator, Jess and Patch rang me just before our annual International Drain Meet to ask if I wanted to head out to Europe for some premischief. I packed the camera and jumped in the car, riding the cusp of desire right into some dirty European metro. Horizons receded like rainbows.

Headed toward discovery


And simultaneity

What I love about exploring with these three is that we always leave with a suitably rough plan. A lot of what we encounter and embrace is spontaneous discovery and that, to me, is the heart of exploration,  pushing our edge. The world offers us endless opportunities for discovery. We have been conditioned to overlook them in our need for efficiency and productivity. Even this blog is a product of that. But this blog is not exploration and the photos you see here are only visual triggers. Finding the exploration you desire necessitates closing your browser, packing a bag and heading into the world. You must plunge into action and cut new edges at your personal desire lines.

Let’s roll

Rail envy

The older we get, the more we’re conditioned to think that taking risks are foolish, that failure is not an option, that we should be embarrassed to try something we’re not skilled at. This is nonsense, just as trying to define exploration is nonsense. We explore polar extremes, the everyday, new oceanic depths, outer space, hidden cities, the intangible. Exploration is more than an isolated event, it’s a mindset. Widening our optics drives home a potential for urban exploration to go beyond a selfish pursuit for the self-obsessed to become a cognitive trigger that rewires us for creative worldly engagement all over again. It’s time for us to smash the unnecessary social conditioning that has been drilled into us. It’s time for us to once again embrace mistakes, failure and desire. It’s time to embrace carnal lust for discovery. It’s time for us to rediscover the imaginations and freedoms of childhood. If the only route to the past is through thinking, than the only route to the present is being. Live what you have because this is all we’ve got.



In pixels

Kagge, in his book Philosophy for Polar Explorers, writes “if you say it’s impossible and I say it’s possible, we’re probably both right.” That’s probably why he picked up the phone and called Steve Duncan in the first place, he saw that Steve had no notion of impossibility. Kagge understands full well that this is the cutting edge of exploration, right under the feet of every urban inhabitant. The present is yours to grab if you ignore the detractions and start cutting.



Metro Hack

Adventure is our existential currency as explorers, without it, we will die of boredom. If you feel that your life is lacking depth, if you feel this audio/visual feast is directionally boring into your soul like a subterranean tunneling machine, that you too are an adventurer and you belong to this club.



By the time we headed to the drain meet, we had run countless miles of track, been squirted by breast milk at an Amsterdam sex show, ripped skin from our bodies tripping in dark urban corners and dodged more than one train after smoking spliffs. We were pulsating with life and that is the only ticket you need to this party, as Keïteï will tell you. When we arrived in Antwerp, there were 70 or 80 explorers from all over the world waiting for us. We were welcomed home from our adventures, as always, by the world’s finest, who relayed their own tales of urban exploration on the way to the meet. The party commenced.

On the move


The Club

Next year’s location will not be revealed until it’s over but if you think you have got what it takes to join the adventurers club, you can find us at the edge of desire, wherever that may be.


This post is dedicated to Patch. Happy birthday brother and may the adventure continue!

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Solo Rooftopping in Clapham

Posted by Bradley L. Garrett on Saturday Jan 16, 2010 Under Archaeology, Cultural Geography, Psychogeography, Uncategorized, Urban Exploration

This morning, diligent as ever in my new year resolution fervour, I was at the gym at 8am. I needed it, needed time to think. I have recently been going through this crisis trying to “return from the field” and have been experiencing what can only be called withdrawals. People talk about this, but in my case, given the high-adrenaline nature of my work, I think it is actually physical. Maybe it is for everyone. My point is, I looked out the window while I was doing sit-ups and listening to a lecture on Heideggerian phenomenology and noticed that this really locked down construction site had entered the demolition process. The builders had busted out windows to throw stuff out of the top floors, right next to the scaffolding. The barbed wire was taking a beating form the work. Good news for me.

Hours later, I was having a conversation with my friend and colleague Erika Sigvardsdotter about the fact that we can never become our research, to do so would be to deny that we had bodies, to suppress our physical existence for an intellectual one. Neither extreme is healthy we decided, balance must be maintained between experience and analysis. I figured this weekend was my last chance to crawl around in this place and Erika encouraged me to go. So I did. Alone.

The other week, I went into Battersea solo to meet up with friends and found it to be… well… rather liberating. Knowing that you only have to depend on yourself, you can be as quiet as you are able. You can take your time. You can pay more attention to your experience. You can run like hell if you have to.

Since my research is about urban exploration culture, I don’t usually solo places. I also don’t usually do infiltrations. But as I mentioned in my last post, change is in the air this winter. After short walk, I was over the fence, staring at the scaff on the side of the building.

Stuff to climb. Dope.

I believe it is, at the moment, the tallest building in Clapham (maybe 10 stories?). Whatever the case, I was determined to get to the roof. Determined enough to ignore some things on the way up.

Sure thing guys

Yeah okay I got the message

On the way to the top, I ran into a brochure for the development. It was strange to think that someone may have placed it there just this afternoon; maybe giving a tour to the new owners.

Pamphlet for gentrification

If fact, the whole time I was there, I held an amazing sense of euphoria. Hours ago, people were at work here, throwing “trash” out of the windows. Now I was here while they were at home drinking beer in front of the telly. I was wearing their high-vis vest, trying on their hardhats, playing in their machines and kicking their “trash” around. It made me think of Danny Pack‘s comment on my last post;

sharing a live site with security, workers, staff and cctv cameras provides the adrenaline hit that abandoned buildings never can – its the polar opposite of the trust you gain knowing you have a certain space to yourself, if just for a few hours.

As the climb continued, the horrible Friday night cacophony from Clapham High Street turned into a whisper.

Going up

Soon I found the ladder to the roof and looked down on the day’s work that had taken place. It always amazes me how slowly a building goes up and how quickly they can come down. This building was sitting there, stagnant, a week ago; now half of it is missing.

Wave goodbye!

I become suddenly righteous behind the camera, the paladin of the forgotten, running around the rooftop screaming and capturing every angle.

Silent side streets

Not-so-silent high street

Oh look, something hanging over the high street

All pumped up on my perceived powers over time and space, I grab the metal and swing out over the high street…

You knew that was going to happen didn't you?

I spent a while sitting on the rooftop, doing nothing. Thinking. Being in love with the experience. This is the part of UrbEx you don’t usually share with people. I watched the lives moving below me, trying to not let my vision filter into some nerdy academic thought about rhythmanalysis or something. I found it difficult, until I caught this moment.

I don't want to guess, seriously.

Now, I was too high up to hear what was going on. I wondered who these people were. Did they meet tonight? Have they been together for ages? Is he offering her his jacket or getting ready to assault her? No way to tell from here. I feel bad for watching them, then I feel I have a right to. If CCTV can watch all these people, so can I. These conflicting emotions are confusing and after fighting with myself for a minute I walk away, laughing out loud at my propensities fro overanalysis, to go take pictures toward London, Dark Princess Battersea glowing off in the distance. My home. My city.

Chartered street toward the chartered Thames

The walk down was quiet, I took my time and even sat to cry for a while when I thought of the memories that would collapse with this building. Urban exploration is more real than my real life.

So, here is the nightcap. I walked home from here at 2am, noticing for the first time how stupid I look when I am out drunk in my neighbourhood. Everyone kept chatting with me and I wondered why. I Realized when I got home that my fucking headlight was still perched on my bowler hat. FAIL!

Anyway, a great Friday night. I look forward to more of them. Off to sleep I go at 5am, goodnight Clapham, goodnight London!

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