Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! Dr. Seuss
To ponder why we travel and from where the passion to explore is derived is a complex question; often not determined by one quick answer. For me, and I would guess for many, it would be easy to give all credit in the direction of one or both parents however just as often influences can be found in a multitude of experiences occupied by our youth.
In primary school I had a teacher, Mr. Tooze, who introduced me to the life and culture of Hong Kong’s Junk Boat citizenry. For a couple of weeks Mr. Tooze worked our imaginations into a frenzy as we drew pictures, crafted stories, encouraged our study, and read about life in the harbor of Hong Kong.
I was mesmerized. I still have vivid memories of my romantic and innocent imagination as I envisioned my own life on board a junk boat. Never setting foot on land and living in tune with the ebb and flow of the ocean tide. Walking with buoyancy to allow my knees the ability to bend and flex along with the rolling of the sea.
I was six and already my thoughts were electrified by a world outside the small community in which I lived and the even smaller cluster that made up my class.
It was a milestone year for my imagination and up next were the classics.
First it was the study of pre-historic creatures. Flesh eating juggernauts that roamed the earth millions of years ago. To further enlighten and enliven a young mind we were taken on field trips to see first hand how dinosaurs lived, how big they were compared to us, the sounds they made, how they hunted, and what ultimately was their demise.
I would have given anything right then to travel back in time and see it for myself. To live in a cave, be among these creatures, and be part of this era. The Flintstones did little to add historic accuracy to my mind’s eye but the knowledge that this period once existed sent my imagination into overdrive and I wanted to go there.
The Cretaceous morphed into Ancient Egypt and I was re-fascinated. I could relate to the boy King known as Tutankhamun. Not because I possessed any royal blood or lauded over a vast land whose people were my subjects but because he was a boy and so was I.
What more did I need to know; it was obvious to me that we had a lot in common.
These three examples are the clearest recollections I have as contributing factors to why I find the world a captivating place that should be cherished and explored. Not only because these topics were offered up to me in a classroom but because my imagination was cultivated, nurtured, and fed.
From then on I had the tools to locate amazement in almost anything.
I was a foundation pupil at Leabank Primary School; a five minute walk from home. My classroom was “2B” and the irony of this number letter combination as a setting to grow a mind is not lost on me now.
Every afternoon we would haul a dozen long grey mats outside to the concrete assembly area where we would pretend to nap for fifteen minutes. It was required. In hindsight it was likely more a requirement for teacher sanity than the assigned reason of rest for our over-energized six year old minds and bodies.
Some kind of interactive class would always follow. We would be read a book, a chapter a day. Or we would tell stories about our weekends or a special event, or we would sing songs.
The Burl Ives rendition of Pearly Shells accompanied by thirty restless youngsters could often be heard across the fields adjacent. Once, I even stood at the front of the class and performed it solo; an experience I have trouble relating to today.
It was a Monday in July of 1969.
A gorgeous day in Auckland; the sky a deep mid-winter blue. There was not a cloud in the sky but the excitement in the classroom was palpable.
We were all shuttled outside with grey mats in tow. Sitting side by side and cross-legged we waited as our teacher setup the small black and white television on the bench that acted as a barrier to protect our class garden.
As this preparatory work was underway all eyes were elsewhere. Staring in amazement at the moon as she floated above us; half obscured, the other half gleaming in the glow of the southern hemisphere sun.
I got bitten by the travel bug right there on the concrete slab outside classroom 2B.
That afternoon, instead of a story or a song, we watched the sky. The moon had never looked so majestic or so engaging. On television the news was filled with continuous reports of Apollo 11 and its historic journey through space.
We listened and watched in awe; imagining what was happening way up there in space.
At 2:56 pm on Monday July 21st 1969 it was announced that Neil Armstrong had set foot on the moon; the very moon we were gazing at. My mind boggled. With the help of our imaginations we could see it happening, live. There was no need for actual footage. I was as close to euphoria as a six year old can be.
I was busting at the seams.
New Zealand did not have a satellite dish at the time so it would be another 4 hours before film of the landing was received; touching down at Wellington Airport by way of an air-force bomber. It was then beamed into every household across the country.
For me though, listening to the announcers talk about the landing; describing it in detail without visual aid, while I sat on a grey mat outside class “2B”, was far more powerful of an experience than seeing the images later that evening.
I wanted to be an astronaut.
You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. Mark Twain