What is it that makes us want to explore new horizons? To look into the unknown, the half known, the semi known and the dreams and to stride on forwards, desperate, hoping, excited to find out?
The more time I spend on this earth, the more I see that question shifting. It’s no longer what makes us want to explore more but, far more often, what is it that holds us back?
You may have missed it, but last November I gave birth to my beautiful, wonderful baby daughter – and like many a new parent, I’ve found myself staggering between half-sleep and new dreams, seeing so much of the normal, the routine and the everyday with new, if rather bloodshot, eyes.
I’ve also spent a lot more time around babies.
My baby, my family’s babies, my friends and their babies and babies of strangers and random passers by.
Babies, it seems, beget babies. Through medical appointments, fluorescent sensory classes and smalltalk from people in the street, walking around town with a baby simply makes babies appear.
And, my, those babies do not hold back from exploring.
It is perhaps a well worn observation that children know how to live in the moment much better than us adults do. That they bounce, fearless, from one activity to another. Up a tree, down a slope, into conversation, striking up friendships despite adult-flavoured barriers like etiquette, religion, and understanding each other’s words.
But my new discovery is just how much young babies have their eyes on the horizon.
I’ve heard many a word about how all that babies do is just eat, sleep and feed (plus, well, complete the other end of that equation.)
But that’s simply not true. They see. They listen. They explore.
Every single day is spent trying something new and trying to make sense of the world they find themselves in.
Light. Dark. Patterns. People. A sense of self. A sense of touch. Reaching, falling, startling…
Right from the get go, we humans are primed to learn and primed to explore.
So, what is it, then, as adults that holds us back?
A sense of fear, perhaps, well laced with responsibility.
2017 is the first year I’ve run my fingers down the spine of an atlas and paused over decisions of safety I’d never considered before.
Immunisations? My daughter’s too young. Cyclone season? Too wet, too windy, too risky.
Ski slopes? Well…alright, there’s some physio to get through first.
It’s far too easy, I think, as adults to stay and stray away from the path of challenge once we find a comfortable, passable rhythm that gets us by. Responsibility is one thing. But even the word itself implies the need for a response.
Before we know it, the days, the weeks, those years pass and fade away and while children around us blossom, learn languages, skills and fill souls with excitement in their eyes, we risk becoming leaden burdens of try-nothingness, an energy-sapping slump to the natural way of life.
Or so it sometimes seems to me within the dark small hours of the night.
Tired as a I may be as I navigate this new, melted, reshifted world view.
It’s time to pull out my five senses. And start looking at that horizon.
Thanks for listening,
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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