Feb 11, 2015

Musings on the Explorer's Way

Opening the doors to Signal Cartel on January 30 was more like opening a small floodgate. Every day, I log in to find new applications and new faces in Corp chat. We are 85 already! Who knew there were so many pilots out there--both old and new--infected by wanderlust and compelled by the idea of finding something interesting out there among the stars?

Exploration tends to be a solo journey. Many who have joined us are in the habit of flying alone and continue to do so. Others enjoy self-organizing into ad-hoc groups to pursue shared objectives. Everyone seems happy to be able to chat with other like-minded souls in the Alliance channel. And many are stepping up in extraordinary ways to support our rookie explorers and help them hit the ground running. It is a lovely thing to see both rookies and veterans alike sharing ideas and inspiring each other with their adventures and discoveries both large and small.

Listening to our members talk about their activities, I am struck by how--just like any other career in New Eden--exploration is as nuanced as the individuals who embrace it. Some are content to wander the stars unfettered by an agenda. Others are intent on earning ISK through exploration sites or finding items of value abandoned by other players. Still others are interested in mapping the universe or otherwise wandering for personal reasons or profit. And at least a few are seeking empirical evidence related to Caroline's Star, the Circadian Sleepers, Thera, and other lore-related mysteries. Despite these various nuances, dedicated explorers seem to share two things: a rugged sense of independence and delight in discovery.

Exploration has given me the time and opportunity to notice and appreciate a New Eden filled with interesting stories, intriguing mysteries, and beautiful things just waiting for me to discover them. When I was a pirate, my focus was solely on the hunt for "targets of opportunity". All my attention was centered on ship fittings, logistics to replace lost ships, combat tactics, and the output of a constantly spammed directional scanner. It was a predator's tunnel-vision perspective from which I rarely looked up to wonder about a nebula, a landmark, or New Eden backstories. I rarely sought out the unknown path just because it was there. Now, I look up. I wonder. And I seek.

Violent Wormhole in Thera

My approach to exploration is relatively stress-free and uncomplicated. When not attending to corp duties or helping rookies find their feet, I wander randomly from Thera in search of low sec, null sec, and C1/C2 hacking sites. I often take side trips to landmarks or simply to see what this system or that looks like or see what others are doing there. Although the discovery angle of exploration is a reward in itself, ISK opportunities tend to be modest (although there have been one or two rather significant finds). That's okay by me as I have few assets to maintain: probably fewer than 10 ships, all frigates, perhaps 5 of which are fitted. Although I explore in more dangerous areas of space, I aim to "fly clever" (as we explorers like to say). Maintaining situational awareness is a big part of that and I can thank my time as a low sec pirate for honing those skills such that my ships are not much at risk and thus rarely need replacing.

Exploration is not the play-style for everyone. Many pilots will prefer a faster pace of life, more profitable pursuits, PvP-oriented activities, or grander objectives. New Eden is a more interesting place because of them. But explorers are on a different, more personal journey. We are the lone wolves among the stars, thinking for ourselves, charting our own course, marching to the beat of our own drum. We find our adventures, friends, and riches where we find them. As New Eden evolves around us, so will opportunities also continue to evolve for our kind to seek, discover, and profit on our own terms.

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