One of the greatest freedoms we have is the ability to travel the world. Whether we explore destinations near or far, we can push our limits and expand our horizons. From the moment we learn to crawl, we discover that we have the strength in our bodies and the power of our minds to choose where we would like to be. To realize this is to know that the limits of your world are the limits you choose for yourself.
Now that isn’t to say that we can go anywhere in the world, or at least anywhere without consequence. There are political boundaries that deny us legal entry, and wars and terrorism that make travel dangerous. There are many innocent people whose freedom, even in our modern time, have been taken away in slavery or wrongful imprisonment. In these cases there are forces and conditions preventing freedom and movement. Until the work is done to eliminate these conditions, it will remain difficult to fully express our ability to explore our world.
And yet, I know there are many people who defy political boundaries and, despite financial difficulty and limited means, travel to our country (or other countries) to seek a better life. The desire and determination to either achieve or to overcome is so strong that they are willing to face the day-to-day uncertainty of living in a new place illegally. Whether it is deemed right or wrong, this is a true example of pushing one’s limits.
Although it is not always practical to just take off and go, I do think about travel a lot. In life there are responsibilities to job, to family, and there are real financial responsibilities as well. So I try to travel to far away places when I can, and enjoy discovering closer-to-home places more often. I delight in learning facts about nearby locales because it builds my appreciation for what I might take for granted. For example, when my husband and I took a scenic drive through the Garden State, I learned that New Jersey is a major grower of cranberries as I passed several farms dedicated to the fruit. Never knew that! On Thanksgiving Day this year I will consider that the cranberry sauce I’m eating might have originated from a place close to home.
I have always liked keeping a large map of the world on my desk. So often I have enjoyed “traveling” to far off places, exploring continents, oceans and seas, and pronouncing the exotic-sounding names of countries and cities that I’d like to see someday. I imagine the sights and sounds of climates and terrains that are different from where I live. I wonder about the cultures and languages of people who live so far away from my part of the world. I wonder if the sky and the sea are bluer in those places, and if the trees and flowers are more vibrant. The imagination is a wonderful gift to a traveler, because through imagination we become open to seeing the details of our world. If we think it, we may see it. One of the reasons I enjoy “map traveling” is that it relaxes me in much the same way that the very thought of “getting away” does. There is a relief in knowing that you can escape the stresses and routine of your day, even if it is through a short mental vacation.
Like “map traveling”, books and the internet are great sources for exploring the world and connecting with people from around the world. Whether we go “low tech” or “high tech”, the information that we learn about our world truly expands our horizons. The more we know about the people and places that exist today and have existed throughout history (and perhaps exist only in history at this point), the further we go in extending our knowledge and understanding of who we are and where we want to be. We have the opportunity to actively explore our connections to cultures and ideas, to traditions and values. As we discover the world around us, we might also discover something about ourselves. It is through this discovery that we gain the insight that can assist us in making choices for the life we want to live. To have choices, and the ability to choose, is perhaps the greatest freedom of all.