It wasn’t too many years ago when the thought of exploring the last of Earth’s uncharted areas captured armchair adventurers with wonder. From jungles to deserts to high mountain peaks, we used to marvel at those few who would dare.
Now if a person has a little extra scratch, a lot of extra time, and a fair amount of gumption, Mt. Everest becomes a travel possibility. With most geographic horizons long since reached by someone, it’s interesting to consider how there are more undiscovered places than ever before. You simply do not know what’s happening right next to you, right now. The person tapping at his or her computer at the table beside you at Starbucks may be writing the novel you’ll rave about next year. But you, grabbing your skinny latte from the bar and heading for the door, hardly notice. There’s no indication what lies beyond the edge of that glowing screen.
Unplanned meetings in an airport with an old high school friend gets you to marveling at the coincidences: “what are the chances?” But that’s human emotion dividing you from the more analytical part of your brain. In fact, the odds are probably pretty high that someone nearby right now has a surprising commonality with you. The guy buying a magazine on the other side of the B concourse went to school with your brother, used to hang out with him on weekends. The real question is, "how would you know to ask?"
The horizon is right next to you.
In the quaint and quiet New England town of Woods Hole, there's an unassuming coffee shop that draws crowds every morning. You might not guess it from the outside, but there’s a team of superstar bakers inside the tiny building, filling trays with extraordinary pastries, pies, cookies, and croissants. They make better than average coffee, too, and considering the ubiquity of decent coffee shops these days, that’s saying something.
Just down the street from this place are a collection of buildings that serve as home to one of the worlds most sophisticated and accomplished exploratory institutions. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution does more to study Earth’s oceans than just about anywhere else.
But if you're sitting in the Pie-in-the-Sky Bakery up the street, sipping one of their terrific brews and nibbling a pastry before you take the ferry over to Martha's Vineyard, there’s no indication of what's going on just two blocks away. At the docks down the street, state-of-the-art oceangoing vessels filled to the brim with world-class scientists and equipment prepare audacious missions that might make you catch your breath. Both of these places—the bakery and the boats— exist right in the middle of town. You can walk from the enticing aroma of brownies in the oven to the modern swashbuckling equivalent of lives spent at sea. They’re both top-shelf in their respective fields. I’m not saying they’re equivalent, but I am saying that you could easily miss either of them if you were tightly focused on the other.
You never know what's going on over the horizon. Sometimes the horizon is literally just down the street from you, behind the house you’ve always ignored, past the coffee shop, around the corner. The horizon line marks those places with an edge beyond which you cannot see, and there are more places you cannot see from where you're sitting right now than there are places you can see. The horizon line is that place where ideas are waiting to be discovered, and some of the hardest ones to reach might be literally in your physical grasp.