FROM THE ARCHIVE: “You throw yourself on the benevolence of the world, believing some kind of wisdom will come of it.” —Canadian explorer Wade Davis

To enter the Explorers Club’s Jacobean manor–style home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is to experience a close encounter of the uncommon kind. From the interior’s dark-mahogany panelling to an unmistakable whiff of old money, it’s easy to imagine that fictional Phileas Fogg should appear, outbound on his 80-day trip around the world.

There have been times when Meredith “Deep Fried Diva” Boxberger is shovelling down a monstrous 72-ounce steak and she thinks, “How’d I ever get to be doing this?” It’s a question often asked of the athletic, 28-year-old competitive eater from Barrie, Ontario.

There may be, as the song goes, 50 ways to leave your lover. But it appears there are 100 ways to meet your maker, especially nowadays when hardly a year passes without another troublesome prediction about the end times.

Imagine for a moment the Earth’s political history as an out-of-control Veg-O-Matic that has sliced and diced the continents and far-flung archipelagos into 872 small administrative pieces called countries, colonies, islands, states, provinces, or, in one case, the dozens of regional oblasts that form Russia. Now imagine there’s a global adventurer’s continuum that begins, at one end, with the world’s most lethargic and non-dead dull person.