I remember sitting in Mr. Kayode’s geography class in secondary school, an atlas in hand looking at political boundaries; countries beyond my sphere. “I will reach the North Pole,” I often said to friends and family, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting in tropical sub-Saharan Africa and had never seen snow at that time.
Reaching the Arctic Circle seemed a precursor; this imaginary line I’d only traced fingers across on a map so last summer, I took a road trip along Sweden’s eastern coast towards the circle with my parents. Marshmallow-white clouds sat against soft blue sky. Beneath them, yellowish-green pine trees and spruce dotted rolling pastures. As we pressed on, I glanced over my left shoulder at the back seat.
Those green fields were now rolling over Mom’s black sunshades as she rested. Thin white wires ran from her ears down to the iPod hidden under her black scarf. She was listening to her own African soundtrack personalized for the undulating Swedish countryside; a mix of strong drum beats with synthesized voices singing in Pidgin English as we passed ox-blood Falu red cottage after cottage strewn across the landscape.
Next to her was Dad. In one hand, a red hardcover atlas which he occasionally flipped through with such familiarity befitting a geologist. My wanderlust clearly fashioned after his, I’d done the same for years.
We finally arrived at the “sign”. Getting out of the station wagon, Mom casually tossed her black scarf over her shoulders, sunglasses resting on her nose.
“Where is it?” she asked.
“This is it,” I responded.
“The Arctic Circle?” She wasn’t sure.
“But where is the thing?” She prodded.
“There is no ‘thing’. It’s an imaginary line.” I tried to explain.
“Hmm…Ok then, let’s get back in quickly before a moose gets us…” and with that, she started towards the car. Dad and I exchanged a knowing glance before reaching for his worn camera…
Exploring beyond boundaries underlies my work as a professional writer, blogger, and photographer who transparently shares places through words, photography, and multimedia. I imagine their pride the day I finally land on centuries-old ice at the top of the world, screaming at the top of my lungs… ‘I’m a loooong way from Africa!’
Proud the only boundaries in life they had taught their daughter were imaginary ones she was willing to draw for herself.