The Spirit of Exploration
Actually, the real reason I came out here is because a friend of my sisters' is Portuguese and she recommended we visit the country. Since it was a bit more out of the way than some of the more popular European destinations, it seemed like it would make an interesting trip. It was also cheaper than our other options (more on just how cheap it was at another time).
Nevertheless, Portugal is a nation known for it's explorers. Relatively small compared to many other European nations, Portugal was still able to amass one of the most impressive maritime empires of it's age, and despite it's small size, wielded great influence as a result of the willingness of it's rulers and explorers to take great risks.
We visited a monument to Henry VI, called Henry the Navigator for his patronage of the explorers that discovered many distant lands before any other country. The monument, a massive stone monolith that jutted out over the river, depicted Henry at it's prow, looking forward to the horizon with a crowd of clerics, soldiers, aristocrats, and explorers behind him.
The implication was clear: the Portugese, as a people, came together to enable the great undertakings of their explorers. Many of them died for the country. And they are proud of the challenges they were able to overcome.
Take a minute to think about the risks involved in sailing across the Atlantic ocean.
- You don't know if you will find anything to land on.
- Many of your friends and people are convinced that the world simply ends.
- You are months from home. Not hours. Not days. Not weeks. Months. If something goes wrong or if you lose your nerve, you can't just turn around and go back.
- If you fail, you may die. If you don't die, you might be financially ruined.
And yet, the rewards were worth all these risks. But the risks had to be taken. The new world wasn't going to explore itself. The Japanese weren't just going to open up their ports on their own. The rich exotic spices of the far east weren't going to ship themselves back to Europe.
Modern Day Exploration ;
Compare these risks to those we take today. Or rather, the risks we are too afraid to take today. Most of them are not life or death decisions. Most of them won't even take months of your lives to complete, and if we do mess up or lose our nerve, we can simply stop and turn back. Most of the risks we contemplate in order to achieve freedom or glory will not lead to total financial ruin if we fail. Most of them don't even require us to secure the financing of royalty. We can usually afford to undertake them on our own.
And yet, we are still afraid.
Somehow, I don't think that wealth was the only motivator for these guys. It takes more than money to entice an explorer to travel around the entire world, giving up years of his life. These men had to have an inherent love of adventure and a drive to be the first to explore.
That was enough for them. That determination to live up to their dreams was enough to get them over the fears that doubtless attached themselves to every stage of the trip.
Determination, and a healthy doe of faith in the rightness of their mission. Faith of this kind is also called courage. It is what gets us to push far past rational to get to places nobody else has dared to go and has thus called impossible.
All You Need Is... ;
The Portuguese had courage in boatloads (literally). They didn't have tons of resources compared to Spain, Britain, and France. They didn't have huge amounts of manpower. They simply had the drive to be the best and to brave new horizons. That's all it takes.
A friend told me recently that, just as you are never too old to take risks and go after your dreams, you are never to young either. She meant that you shouldn't let lack of resources and experience be an excuse to put off your dreams. Portugal, a small country, didn't let lack of resources stop it from dominating the seas for years.
Likewise, ask yourself if you are putting things off, waiting until you have more time, or money, or knowledge. Those things are unnecessary. Determine to drive at your goal, and you'll find ways to make the rest happen.
Sail on, Brave Warriors!