The Science of Risky Travel

Jake and his car in Mongolia

With the continued rise of gap years and career breaks people seem to have become increasingly daring with their adventures.  Some will travel to Australia and backpack for months on end, some work in hospitals in Africa, some cycle across Asia and some paraglide in the Himalayas.  But with the death in February of a gap-year student in France, fatalities and accidents are a now a common phenomenon and seem to be increasing.  What compels those who break from the norm by risking their safe comfortable lives to journey in dangerous and potentially lethal surroundings?

In this radio documentary Jake Lea-Wilson takes part in a daring adventure himself by driving to Mongolia in a tiny car.  This extreme risk taking is quantified by an insurance expert who only deals in risk-laden travel.  The motivating forces are mused over by professional adventurers at an organised Adventure Travel conference in North London and finally Jake meets with an Oxford University neuroscientist to find out what might be driving us psychologically to take these risks.  Could the answer lie in evolution and our instinct to exploit our environment?  Neuroscience has an interesting take on the subject.

Jake Lea-Wilson is studying for an MSc in Science Media Production at Imperial College, London.


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