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[Marlow]: "Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina - and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages, precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay—cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death - death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here." (1.11)
When you head off to backpack around Southeast Asia after college, you end up leaving some of your comforts behind. Some places don't even have cell phone service! Imagine!
[Marlow]: "Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. (1.11)
Exploration can be a way of escaping your gambling debts ("too much dice") and starting a new life, but don't expect to find a place to buy your gourmet salt in a savage new land.
"Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up I will go there.' […] But there was one yet—the biggest, the most blank, so to speak—that I had a hankering after."(1.17)
There's just something about a blank space on a map that makes Marlow want to fill it up. Come on, we're not the only ones hearing something a little sexual here, right?.