A few months ago my friend asked me what I thought it meant to be an explorer. I wasn’t sure how to answer him because at the time I didn’t consider myself to be an explorer. In my mind, explorers were those people who we learn about in our history books; those people who sailed around the world and mapped it out as we know it today. They would set off on expeditions that lasted months, sometimes even years, to explore unknown territory and then come back to teach us about their newfound knowledge. They were scientists, geologists and historians. So why then would I know what it means to be an explorer?
I have always dreamed about places to visit and faces to meet. If I had enough time and money I would travel to every corner of every country and get lost in their culture and traditions. There is just so much for us to learn and see in this beautiful world. We live on this planet with 7 continents, 195 countries and over 6 billion people speaking 6500 different languages. Can you just imagine how much is out there waiting to be explored?
Eight months ago I decided to move to Japan to experience a different side of the world. I grew up in South Africa, so there wasn’t really anything that could’ve prepared me for this change. I didn’t know much about Japan before I came here but it definitely didn’t take long for me to realise that this country is nothing like I expected it to be. It isn’t a futuristic island, covered in neon lights. It’s a country that’s so rich in culture and tradition that sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s the year 2019.
I have learned a lot since I moved here. I learned that I can get frustrated over silly things because I’m not fluent in the language. I have also learned that you can have a conversation with someone without using words. I have learned that there will always be a Japanese person on standby who will go out of their way to help you. But the most important thing that I have learned is that if you take a step out of your comfort zone for long enough, you might see that there’s a whole world out there that you know nothing about.
I am grateful my friend asked me what I thought it meant to be an explorer because this question shone so much light on what I’m currently doing. To be an explorer isn’t just about discovering something that nobody knows about. It’s also not about being fearless or addicted to an adrenaline rush. Being an explorer is about having the courage to start a journey that will unveil myths, truths and lies about the world as you know it. It’s about knowing that if you choose this path you will be faced with difficult decisions and challenging days, but you still choose it anyway.
To be an explorer means that you have a whole new definition of the word brave because all of a sudden everyday life sure got a little bit harder. It’s about leaving loved ones behind for an indefinite period of time. It’s about learning how to be alone without feeling lonely because there’s not always going to be someone by your side. Some days you might hate the journey and it will make you question why you even started in the first place. But being an explorer means knowing that these feelings are temporary and that these days will pass too. The journey will be a constant roller coaster of emotions but there will be a moment; sometimes it’s a face, other times it’s a view; but there will always be a moment where you know that every tear and every drop of sweat was all worth it.
I believe the most important aspect of being an explorer is to share the knowledge you’ve learned on your journey of discovery with the world; share your love of life and purposeful experiences with the youth. This knowledge will emit positive energy and you will become a teacher; an educator of the world. In my opinion, that’s what we should all strive to be.
I already know that the time that I will call Japan my home won’t be enough. I have already become enchanted by learning and I have fallen completely in love with stepping into the unknown and discovering what lies there. I know that I will leave Japan with many areas still unexplored. But I hope that I will be able to share my knowledge of everything I learned on my journey and that I can inspire at least one other person to come and do their own exploration; and maybe, just maybe someone will pick up where I left off and I will be able to learn about Japan in a completely new way.
That’s what’s so special about exploring this world we call home, we all experience it differently and so there’s always room for new information. No matter how many scientists, geologists or historians have explored an area, there will always be place for your exploration too.