At sea, we see great swaths of ocean, and thereby of the planet. Sometimes on a long ocean voyage, we may be close to land, but more often we are hundreds of miles off any land. In either circumstance, I like to think about the people, the places, the cultures – just over that horizon!
In this voyage, we were near Cape Finisterre, and I could see the lights of Spanish towns. On our 2003 voyage Hong Kong to New York, we passed between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, and could smell the spices of Sumatra. On our San Francisco – Boston voyage in 1993, we saw the lights of Recife, Brazil as we sailed past, and later were covered by dust blown two thousand miles from the Sahara Desert. These were direct connections to the lands we passed.
Yet if there is no such direct connection, you must use your imagination. Who are they just over there? What language do they speak? What religions to they follow? What is their culture like, and their art, literature and music? What is the geography and topography, the politics and the government?
It’s a simple and friendly curiosity about our neighbors on the planet. Likely, they are more similar to how we are, than they are different. Likely they too will want a peaceful existence, good health for their families, adequate food and shelter, and a brighter future for their children than they themselves might have had.
Just as a huge night sky full of stars lures one to imagine one’s place in the universe, this imagining among mariners about who and what lies just over the horizon, helps us ponder our role and place on earth.