Opinion Editorial March, 2024: Epic Journeys

opinion editorial
Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

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Despite what an Associated Press headline might have wanted you to believe last month, a flight from Tokyo to Las Vegas in a private jet does not constitute an epic journey.

Epic journeys have taken place across the Pacific Ocean though. Most of them were undertaken centuries ago by the indigenous peoples we now call, collectively, Polynesians. Of course, those journeys were all made in boats. The last epic flight across the Pacific Ocean was piloted by André Borschberg. He is, along with Bertrand Piccard, the co-founder of the Solar Impulse project. Nine years ago, he flew non-stop for 118 hours from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii in a solar-powered plane. That epic journey broke many world records.

Most of us never attempt such journeys. Yet, in a sense, we are all on epic journeys of our own. I have completed a few journeys in my life that felt epic to me. This month's photo shows the man who took me on one of them. I had spent a few days in the wilderness of the Mongolian Steppe living among the indigenous nomads there. A vast area of lush grassland, it is no surprise that it has supported epic journeys of human migration across many centuries. My "driver" and I rode for about eight hours before we reached the last community where I would stay before heading back to civilization.

Epic journeys happen all the time, and a few happened last month. Some are unimportant except for reasons of nostalgia. Paul McCartney's bass guitar completed a 51-year journey making its way back to him. Others are much more significant, such as the journeys of two spacecraft to the lunar South Pole.

The most epic journey announced last month was Climate Impulse. A follow on from Solar Impulse, it will attempt, in 2028, to fly a hydrogen-powered plane around the world non-stop. Led by Bertrand Piccard, the project's theme is "one flight, one world, zero emissions." Like Solar Impulse, it will be a technology demonstration of what is possible in the fight against climate change.

The most epic journey that began last month was the journey Alexei Navalny will now take into martyrdom. Despite the many comparisons that have been made since his murder, Navalny is best compared to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. A Soviet dissident who first became famous outside his country over fifty years ago, his work was responsible, at least in part, for the Soviet revolution of 1990. If Navalny's work teaches us anything, it is that a third revolution is now the only hope for the citizens of Russia — as well as for the ethnic Russian diaspora.

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