A HUNDRED YEARS ago, when Robert Falcon Scott set out for Antarctica, his two primary goals were scientific discovery and reaching the geographic South Pole. Arguably, though, Scott was really chasing what contemporary observers call a sufferfest. He set himself up for trouble: Scott brought Manchurian and Siberian ponies that quickly fell through the snow and ice; he had his crew pull sleds full of gear, instead of relying on dogs. The expedition ended terribly; everybody who made the push to the pole died. Miserable, starving, and frostbitten, one of Scott's last four men killed himself by walking into a blizzard without even bothering to put on his boots.
In the taxonomy of travelers, the word "explorer" suggests a morally superior pioneer, a man or woman who braves the battle against nature to discover new terrain, expanding our species' understanding of the world. "Adventurer," by contrast, implies a self-indulgent adrenaline junkie who scares loved ones by courting puerile risk.