In this special listener episode, we follow teacher Adam Seldon on a 300-mile trek across the Balkans, one of Europe’s most mis-understood and rarely visited regions. Travelling from Sarajevo, in Bosnia, across Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece, Adam links together some of the region’s most spectacular scenery, national parks and long-distance trails. It’s a fantastic adventure. But what really sets it apart is why Adam is doing it.
Standing on the cusp of adulthood, with his formal education just completed, Adam felt something was missing. Life had been too easy, he’d not faced enough challenge, enough risk or hardship. He wanted to learn by experience, not books. So, he set off on what’s called an Agoge, an ancient Spartan tradition in which young men were tasked with going into the wilderness on their own and overcoming a number of challenges before they could be considered a man. Adam wanted to do his own kind of modern day Agoge, to test himself in a way that he’d never experienced before. It was a personal journey of self-discovery and learning, but it was also a challenge to the misconceptions and unfair stereotypes of the Balkan region and its people.
He found beautiful landscapes and incredible hospitality, but he also found the scars of war. Two decades after a brutal civil war, and genocide, much of the region was still reconciling itself to its bloody past and through his journey Adam illuminates that history and its effects on the people to this day. Peppered with genuine inspiration, and insight throughout, this is an inspiring story of Adam’s determination to challenge himself, it’s a story about a rarely visited part of the world, but it’s also a story about you – how just like Adam you too can break the mould of modern life and set out on your own adventure, your own Agoge whatever that may be.
· Trekking through some of the last remaining untouched wilderness in Europe
· Discovering a rarely visited region, including Albania’s spectacular Accursed Mountains and Bosnia’s Sutjeska National Park
· Learning about the brutal civil war that rocked the region more than two decades ago, and whose scars are still evident today
· Discover the ancient Spartan concept of an Agoge, a challenge undertaken on the cusp of adulthood
· Be inspired to set out on your own Agoge, whatever that may be – whether trekking 300 miles through Europe’s forgotten region or just pushing yourself to find out about your true potential
Adam Seldon’s book about this journey, A Balkan Journey: Walking Through Europe’s Forgotten Region, is out now on Kindle. It’s a really quick read (about 80 pages), but full of fascinating history and intellectual insight. Follow him on Twitter - @adamjseldon and Instagram @adam.j.seldon
(c) all images Adam Seldon
Here's a clip from the movie 300, which we reference in the film, that explains what a Spartan Agoge ... Adam didn't quite manage something this hardcore but he did challenge himself in what he describes as a kind of modern Agoge
Here's some of the other types of Agoge that we talk about - first up the crazy ritual of Land Diving in Vanuatu
And the absolutely insane Satere-Wawe tribes bullet ant initiation ceremony
Get Your Wine On!
Thank you to Juggernaut Wines for sponsoring this episode. This is the adventurer’s wine of choice, harnessing the power of nature to infuse every drop with the gritty spirit of the wild Californian coast. Follow them on Instagram @juggernautwines