The Explorers Club Annual Dinner 2023

I finally feel like I’m a real explorer

My entire life, I’ve been told “no” almost every chance I’ve had to explore my curiosity and really think outside of the box. A lot of our school system (at least in my time) was pushing against individuality, ambition, and free thinking. And to be honest, I’ve really grown to hate hearing the word “no”. I’d much rather have a discussion about why something is a bad idea than just be shut down without explanation (within appropriate reasoning, of course). Well, this weekend, for the first time in my life, I truly felt my sense of curiosity and ability to walk my own path being fully celebrated. And I can’t shake the magic of this feeling. Let me rephrase that, I don’t want to shake the magic of this feeling. I want to live in it! It all started when I joined The Explorers Club.

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If you’d like to hear a bit about how I joined the club, read my fun story about Lunching with Legends here! While joining the club and meeting our local chapter of scientists and legends was an absolute dream in itself, my next real dream to face was my first-ever ECAD, the Explorers Club Annual Dinner, a giant and elaborate gala affair in New York City where club members from across the globe get together to eat outrageous dishes, watch their fellow creative minds receive awards, and mingle with like-minded people. This full weekend of events officially started on Friday and went through Sunday evening with most of it taking place at the Explorers Club Headquarters in the city.


When I first arrived very late on Wednesday night, I was coming in after a nine-day-long press trip in Germany, so I was completely out of whack. After a full night of sleep and a taxi ride into New York City, I was so ready to explore the Explorers Club Headquarters for the first time. Getting in on Thursday was the best thing I could have done for myself because not only did it give me a chance to attend Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new Bad Cinderella on Broadway, but it also allowed me a chance to explore the club and get all the photos I wanted while it was effectively empty. So, my partner in crime for the weekend and fellow SoCal chapter member, Dakota, and I went up to the club, got our photos in an almost-empty building, and explored every nook and cranny of the club around the amazing team of people who were setting up. I can honestly say that Dakota helped me so much, as she is fearless and was ready to open every door.

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Together, we explored the main rooms of the club as well as some of the more tucked-away areas like the radio room, the map room, and we even found this amazing bathroom that was more tucked out of the way that had a tub in it- which we instantly became obsessed with (because we’re weirdos, I guess). This bathroom became our salvation over the weekend as hundreds of people poured in and all tried to go to the same bathroom downstairs.


Friday, in itself, between listening to the first round of speakers and getting to mingle with fellow explorers, was a dream come true. I met Josh Gates, who has been a source of inspiration for me, mingled with astrophysicists, rocket scientists, people who founded lost cities, famed anthropologists such as Wade Davis and Joe Rohde, conservation scientists, and other curious minds. It was chaos, but in the best possible way. Every single person had such an inspiring and interesting story, and for once, I didn’t feel like being ‘too much’ by being myself. I felt so small in comparison to these epic minds, to some of the greatest modern minds in the world.


On Saturday, I was so unbelievably blessed to hear some of the greatest minds in exploration speak, including John Mather, one of the senior project scientists behind the James Webb Telescope. How surreal it was to hear him talk about the development of one of the most famous and important projects in modern astronomy and its ability to photograph space across the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr. Meg Lowman also spoke, making this one of the greatest lectures I’ve ever had the pleasure to be invited to, let alone sit in on. And it just ignited the fire in me that I want to make a difference in the world, however, small, and it helped me to become continually inspired to put together my dissertation ideas for my masters, my next big journey to come in my life.


From there, I may have accidentally followed the crowd through an open door into a lunch event I will never forget for the rest of my life… was I supposed to be there… (I had not RSVP’d… oooops) no? But the spot was set, I was encouraged to join by some of my wonderful fellow members, and I saw down amongst these great minds and had the honor to listen to Josh Gates interview Bindi, Terri, and Robert Irwin about their lives, the late Steve Irwin, their life at the Australia zoo, and their work in conservation. As a huge Crocodile Hunter fan growing up, this was a dream come true for me. Even more so, the family was so welcoming in greeting me after the event, and we got to talk about the Robben Island penguins afterwards, which was just even more of a dream come true. I had never met kinder more compassionate people, and their love to change the world and help further the world of conservation was just a complete inspiration. I left that lunch (with them on the elevator actually, as they invited me out with them), on a complete high. I don’t know if I have ever been happier and more inspired, and I spent the rest of the afternoon before the gala writing out dissertation ideas and projects I wanted to lead in the anthropological and scientific world that spoke to me.

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What was even more amazing was that I may have found out I wasn’t supposed to join for that lunch… (oops, I swear I didn’t know), and when my mentor in the club found out about me being where I technically wasn’t supposed to, rather than getting upset, his response was, “Good for you! You’re going to go places in this club!” He started bragging about me to fellow club members, explaining that I was everywhere I wasn’t supposed to be and that was the mark of a true explorer and someone who was going to make change. And this feeling came over me that I will never shake. He celebrated my curiosity and ability to think outside the box, something that I don’t remember anyone else ever doing for me before. And if I didn’t already know that I had found my people, this really confirmed it. I had not only found my people, but I was living my dream with those who celebrated and encouraged curiosity, exploration, thinking outside the box, and the ability to open and walk through doors, even if you’re not supposed to be there.


Saturday night came, and the big gala was upon me! And boy was it everything I expected and more! I had been working up the courage to eat strange insects (and arachnids… oh boy) all year long since applying for club membership, and it was most definitely the time for that. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I ate a scorpion… and there is video evidence. That alone seemed like conquering my Everest, but I also am proud? To say that I ate a cicada and some meal worms, too… And getting to sit in beautiful dress amongst some of the greatest minds of our time, mingle with other explorers, and try new things all while watching Josh Gates host and Bindi Irwin receive her award was really a night I’ll never forget.


And on Sunday, I bought my club merchandise, said my goodbyes, and reflected on the perfect weekend experience that I had had. To me, being an explorer is about curiosity, a desire for knowledge, and the ability to pursue opportunities that better our world, however large or small that may be. I also learned this weekend that a good explorer is not afraid to break the rules to push ahead. We think outside of the box. It’s these attributes and the experiences that come out of them that make me so unbelievably excited to be a member of the infamous Explorers Club.

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I also learned that if you speak with anyone in the worlds of astrophysics, rocket science, and more or less anything space related, most of them, when you ask them what they do, simply respond just, “Space.” And that made me laugh quite a bit.


This weekend, I was so blessed to be surrounded by some of the most prolific minds in exploration, and I am beyond humbled that they have accepted me as one of their own. I am beyond excited and ready to get moving forward to change the world, one small step at a time.

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And I was also happy to finally get to see our legendary clubhouse everyone kept telling me about! I’m finally back home after a few weeks of adventure, but I’ll be on the high from this, I’m quite sure, for many months to come.

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And if I wasn’t quite sure before now, I can proudly say that I have found my people, and I have learned to be less fearful and more fearless. I’ve learned to celebrate my curiosity and to continue to ask questions and, quite literally, open every door I come across. I am shaking with joy after my first ECAD experience, and I only hope that I can live up to the expectations of my fellow club members and mentors, and I fully hope that one day, I, too, can become a legend like so many of these unbelievable people around me. And, frankly, with members throughout history such as Theodore Roosevelt, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, I only hope I can truly fit in and become a legend in my own right.

Malorie Mackey

Malorie Mackey is an actress, published author, and adventurer based out of Los Angeles, California. Throughout her experiences, Malorie found a love for travel and adventure, having journeyed to over a dozen countries experiencing unique locations. From the lush jungles of the Sierra Madre mountain range to the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, Malorie began adventuring and writing about her unique travels. These travel excerpts can be found on VIVA GLAM Magazine, in Malorie’s Adventure Blog, in Malorie’s adventure show “Weird World Adventures” and in the works for her full-length travel book. Stay tuned as Malorie travels the world bringing its beauty and wonder to you.

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