Bir Tawil – Egypt? Sudan? Jeremiah?
A triangular sliver of Africa. Sudanese maps lay it out as part of Egypt and Egyptian maps draw the borders over to Sudan, each attempting to shirk the land off on the other. It’s the wasteland that nobody wants, but everyone dreams of. The place where if you can make the full day trek through the desert past the last dust of gold miners searching for their own treasure, you could plant your home-sewn flag between a couple sturdy rocks. That is exactly what a middle-aged farmer from Virginia did in 2014, not to fulfill his dream, but to answer his daughter’s question of whether or not she can ever be a real princess. While his heroic gesture made for all sorts of shareable click-bait, and may have landed him a Disney deal, this bloke Jack Sheckner claims that he and his pal Omar beat ol’ Jeremiah to it. Their far less noble trek began over beer on Omar’s balcony, involves an impressively irresponsible lack of planning and includes a short stint behind bars. They were making a rogue film that was not picked up by Disney, surprisingly.
Marie Byrd Land – Antarctica
Though it is surrounded by a massive mountain, actually Vinson Massif Mountain, the highest place in Antarctica, this land reaches an all time low as the lowest place in the land and touted as the least inhabitable place on Earth. In fact, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, who claimed it for his wife wasn’t even able to camp there and made refuge on the nearby Ross Ice Shelf (which also doesn’t sound altogether pleasant). What lengths will we go to in order to claim some earth and ice for our own damn selves, or apparently the ladies in our life? You can just buy a star on the internet. In fact, Travis McHenry has attempted to lay claim via online access and multiple letters to various nations. These letters have all gone unanswered by fine folks who won’t give this land or man the time of day. As far as we can tell, it still belongs to Marie and no one wants to visit her. Sorry Marie. You have a cold, cold heart.
Senegal-Guinea Road – No Man’s Land
This road passes through the largest distance between borders. Where lines are drawn in the sand to delineate one country from the other in a claustrophobic enclosure, this is a 27K gap of lawlessness. It does offer some habitation and the gap is a bit of a mystery. There are campsites titled “No Man’s Land” where you can live out your dream of freedom, and if you continue along the road, you will can find your way to the highest pub in Africa. Breaking free of borders can seem like rebellion, but that rebellion is wide-spread. There is no government assistance or enforcement. Being a trade route becomes a challenge as more and more imaginary documentation can be required all willy-nilly, sending trucks back and forth along the route. Bribes are in high effect and increasing price. Perhaps this reminds us why we lock ourselves into land in the first place. If there were no imaginary lines in the world, where would we escape to and how would we ever find our way home? Perhaps we find more security in our enclosure than we care to admit. While we think that we are the ones defining our place, it is possible that place is actually defining us.