in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

Sunday Firesides: Make It Past the Port

As a young man, Jack London joined the crew of a schooner bound for seal hunting in the Pacific. 

When his ship pulled into port in the Bonin Islands, Jack gazed with wonder upon the jungle-covered volcanic peaks and breathed in the exotic scent of the tropics. “It was my first foreign land,” he remembered. “I had won to the other side of the world, and I would see all I had read in the books come true. I was wild to get ashore.”

Jack and his best mates spotted “a pathway that disappeared up a wild canyon, emerged on a steep, bare lava-slope, and thereafter appeared and disappeared, ever climbing, among the palms and flowers.” The men were stirred to follow the trail, sure they’d discover “beautiful scenery, and strange native villages, and find Heaven alone knew what adventure at the end.” 

But as they disembarked, they came first to the island’s pier, where other sailors were partying. Jack’s companions suggested they have a drink before starting on their hike, and London acquiesced

Jack made it no further ashore. He ended up spending the entirety of his leave at “a drinking-place which was very like a drinking-place at home or anywhere else over the world.”

Many of us get stuck in a similar “tourist trap” — both literally, and figuratively.

Life is a vast continent, and we all begin our existence on its shores. Pacified by the easy entertainments available along life’s wharf, captured by the desire to fit in with the crowds that throng there, most people never make it to the mountains of meaning that lie further inland.

Be that rare traveler who explores more deeply. So that at the end of your life, you won’t have to say with regret, as Jack did, “I never climbed that lava path among the flowers.”

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