The world is shrinking. Advances in communication, computer technology and transportation have all played a role in making the world a smaller place. Now, it’s easy to “travel” to an exotic locale, just by the stroke of a finger across a small, mobile screen. From the Great Wall of China to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater—in just a span of seconds—you can readily see what a place looks like. No longer do you have to pore through volumes of guidebooks or travel agency brochures. And social media gives you up-to-the-minute information on almost anyplace anywhere in the world.
With all this information at our fingertips, I believe that travel itself is changing. Gone are the bucket lists (so popular just a few years ago) of “must-see places before you die.” It’s not the destination so much anymore that makes us twinge with excitement. I have come to think it’s something else.
New reasons for “going”
From finding the best cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted in an unexpected place to wandering into a corner bookshop where you happen upon a rare publication that you never thought you’d ever be able to hold in your hands, I believe it’s passionate discovery that defines travel today.
And so it was with my recent trip to Antarctica. I didn’t go because I needed to step on my seventh continent. Quite frankly, if you asked me on the spot, I couldn’t tell you how many continents I’ve actually trod. I didn’t go there because of a certain species of wildlife I wanted to see. There are relatively few terrestrial animals in Antarctica. And I certainly didn’t go to escape my own Wisconsin winters.
I went, I think, to find clarity in a world that had, as of late, become quite complicated. Too many decisions to make every second of the day, too many choices, too many nuances in day-to-day living. I hoped to discover a black-and-white world, where life could, at least for a moment, become simple again.
Finding clarity: physically and mentally
In Antarctica—“the coldest, driest, windiest, and highest place on Earth”—I found manifestations of clarity that are rarely seen in the world that lies in the latitudes above. The water is so clear that the bases of icebergs can be seen from the surface. The air is so clean that it felt like news to my lungs. And the landscape is so stripped of hues that even my color photos look as though they have been taken in black and white.
In such a stripped-down world, I realized that life is complicated only if I choose to make it so. There’s a common expression in our modern world that “things aren’t always black and white.” But after traveling to Antarctica, I know that they can be. That’s the real discovery I made on the seventh continent.
At first glance, when we consider technology, it does seem to be an obvious fact that the world is shrinking. We are now able to communicate at speeds never thought possible and to “know” people we have never met. That ability makes the world a smaller place.
But that same technology is also broadening our horizons. By learning about and traveling to far-flung destinations not possible decades ago, the world appears to be a bigger setting in which our thoughts and possibilities can expand.
So, throw away your bucket lists and rosters of places yet to see. Instead, seek what you’re passionate about. The common thread in good travel stories today is that they are deeply personal, as all epic journeys throughout history have been.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,