When I walked into the Museo de Los Indios in Seville last weekend, I had no idea what to expect. I had just heard from a fellow traveler and blogger that it was beautiful. She was right, not only was it beautiful, the exhibit on display was mind blowing.
The exhibit, Pacifico, followed the voyages and discoveries of the new world by some of the first travelers. It included ancient maps and pieces of art that were simply stunning, and old books and journals, centuries old treatises between countries claiming rights to the newly discovered lands.
When I travel now I still have panic attacks leading up to a bigger trip. It’s stressful to plan a long trip, so many things to book, reviews to read, finances to juggle. While my anxiety before Spain was much less suffocating than it was for Costa Rica, I still had a couple of attacks. A pressing fear of the unknown still weighs heavily on me in moments of apprehension. And yet, I remembered that I have a family and a home to come back to should Spain not work out the way I thought. I remembered that I have a support system both in NY and in Spain.
Imagine then, how much more difficult and frightening it must have been centuries ago when those brave individuals first set out into the quite literally unknown world. They weren’t even positive that other lands existed, or where they were. Can you imagine? Stepping onto a boat that may or may not last the voyage, guided by nothing but the stars and the as of yet unfounded belief that you would one day find land…
I have a romantic image of a sailor below decks as the ship is being thrown about by stormy waves, writing furiously in his journal, attempting to capture every moment, unsure of whether or not he would live to see the next day, but a rush of adrenaline and joy flooding his body as he thought of the possibility of discovering a new world.
Of course, it’s not that romantic. The journeys were fraught with peril upon peril, and the voyagers not necessarily equipped to handle them. And yet that’s why I find them so admirable. Knowing full well what they were signing up for these were true voyagers.
But for those that did survive the journey and stepped foot onto an unknown land…I want to know what they felt, what they saw, smelled, heard. In our day and age every single piece of this world has been visited and touched, imprinted with the presence of humans. But to set eyes on a place for the first time…on a land that has not yet been torn apart by the greedy…how magical it must have been.
What were their first thoughts? When they came across signs of other humans and realized that there are other people out there like them, what was their initial reaction? Fear? Curiosity? When was the idea of dehumanizing others and forcing them into slavery born? Was it the immediate thought process, or was there at least some form of fascination and amazement combined with a question of what they can learn from each other?
That is part of the beauty of travel isn’t it? For me it’s not just about the place and the sights. I want to see it all, yes. I want to be able to experience the magic that is the Jardines de Real Alcazar in Seville or the intimate flamenco show in person. But what is it that makes a place a place? People. Aren’t they the ones who have helped to create the culture and monuments that we love to see when we go abroad? Or if it’s nature that we seek, such as a rainforest, aren’t people the ones who help keep it flourishing (minus oil companies of course, but with the good come the bad). People are absolutely fascinating. I can experience the world in a way that I experience it, with my five senses, and see it how I see it which is influenced by my upbringing, education, etc. But how much more interesting it is to hear another’s perspective, and how much more you can learn!
I had dated a gaffer once and when we took a trip to the Met, he opened my eyes to artwork in a way that I probably never would have understood before him. It enhanced the experience so much. That’s when I really understood in the depths of my being how much we can learn from one another.
And so where did we go wrong? What is this basic and animalistic need for us to conquer one another? To be better than one another? To out-do one another? To claim that our way of life is the correct and only way? We claim to be higher than animals and yet our very society is founded on nothing but animalistic behavior, errors of the past that we refuse to fully address and resolve and that we simply put band-aids over hoping they will heal out of sight. Can we find the courage to dive in and fight the infection head on?