I used to think of only Sindbad or Napoleon in connection with journeys or voyages. Perhaps Captain Cook or Columbus even. Because they were sailors and explorers. They had an agenda and they set out to view the world no one had ever seen before. Their trips were special, full of excitement and information and new people and birds and insects and new soil even. Maybe they sang songs and played the fiddle while on their ships. Played cards and drank ale and smoked pipes. It would have been mighty enjoyable to be an explorer. With a compass and a single lens field glass, a map and a hip flask.
But what I didn’t realize until much later is that these stories were journeys themselves. I didn’t have to be on a ship where the boards were rotting or the seaweed and mussels clung to the deck, I could simply imagine them. Because there lies the power of the written word. A story is not just words strung together into sentences, but it is like a map to the vast expanse of ocean, desert, or rainforest. The reader is the explorer. And the journey comes to life in the unhindered imagination fueled by the words.
The yellow brick road to Oz.
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November.
The squirrels helping Ram build a bridge to Lanka.
All of these were my journeys as much as they were the protagonists’. And not just the stories. The actual history lessons where battles were fought, wars were waged, kingdoms were established. Where civilized men built drains, the pharaohs built the pyramids, we invented the telephone and the light bulb and the pencil sharpener.
There was a children’s cartoon program called Franny’s Feet that I remember watching when I was younger. A young girl named Franny would hang out in her father’s footwear emporium. She would try on a pair of shoes each time she was there, and they would magically transport her to another world. Snow boots would take her skiing to the Swiss Alps covered in glittering snow, wellingtons would take her on a fun walk in the mud puddles of London, pretty pumps would transport her to the lavish gardens of the countryside to have some English tea and dainty sandwich triangles. It was a delightful show and the theme song was quite catchy. I learnt that imagination is the only true wealth you have, and whether it is the sand dunes of Arabia or the fjords of Norway, that is all you need for your own private journey to anywhere in the world and beyond.
Of course, these days imagination is reinforced with the help of images, visuals, high resolution graphics, virtual reality, seven-dimensional wholesome multimedia experiences, and the kind. But really all we need is a story and a mind capable of journeying through the narrated words and creating a world all for ourselves. We can embark on journeys just like Napoleon did, right here, right now, from our homes.