In the summer of 1502, the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci was sailing down the coast of Brazil in the service of the King of Portugal. He was amazed by this new continent, which had never been seen by Europeans before. It was the dawn of the age of exploration when vast swaths of the Earth had yet to be mapped. He later wrote to a friend, “it is lawful to call it a new world, because none of these countries were known to our ancestors…My last voyage has proved it, for I have found a continent in that southern part; full of animals and more populous than our Europe, or Asia, or Africa, and even more temperate and pleasant than any other region known to us.” Over the next 500 years, the world would be fully mapped, flags would be planted at the North and South Poles, and the highest mountain peaks would be conquered.
All my life, I have been fascinated by far away places and have dreamed of traveling to distant lands. As a child, I remember pretending to be at the helm of my own ship, sailing off to the horizon in search of undiscovered new worlds. And yet, far above my head, satellites were photographing the last undisturbed places on the planet.
Today, much of the exploring left to do is deep underground and underwater. There are no more unknown continents. So, where are we adventurers to turn? What frontiers are left to investigate for those of us who were born too late to embark on a voyage of discovery?
Beyond the edge of the world, there are still uncharted lands waiting to be trekked. New worlds are being dreamed up every day. When I’m caught up in a great book, I feel what I assume Vespucci must have felt when he first spotted the mouth of the Amazon River. And the thing I love most about the myriad worlds of books is that I will, ever run out of new stories to explore. Google estimates that there are over 129 million books in existence and the number continues to grow every year.
There might not be remote islands untouched by humans left to find, but I can at least take comfort in knowing that there are still paper worlds waiting for those of us daring enough to make the journey.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, Washington and proud owner of a spyglass. You can find him on Twitter and subscribe to his email newsletter for exclusive content that magically appears in your inbox.