I often talk about the important role played by schools in broadening the horizons of young people. The meaning of this is both metaphorical and literal, but the most important horizons for all of us are those that exist within our heads. It is the way that we think that really defines the horizons and the limits of our world.
However true this may be, travel is one of the ways in which many of us choose to broaden our horizons. By travelling to a different place, we learn to think in different ways and to get a better understanding of the world. It is by going on a physical journey that our minds go on a journey of their own that is of still greater significance. Whilst we must return home, our minds have been stretched and the lessons learnt stay with us for life. I had the privilege of travelling to India last October with Mrs Coontz, Mr McDougall and twenty Wellington pupils. None of us returned unchanged. It is impossible to visit the Taj Mahal and witness the complex kaleidoscope of Indian life without coming home in some way changed.
As I write, this kind of travel is only a dream. The whole world is to some extent in lockdown and none of us know when we will next be able to go far from our homes. Many of us have enjoyed great freedom for a long time, but just for now some aspects of that are on hold.
But you do not have to go far to travel either literally or metaphorically. There are wonders within 1km of all our homes that during what was once called normal life, we probably rushed by without pausing to stop and look. There is a time to travel far, but now is the time to focus on the small things that are much closer to home. The shape of a leaf, the colour of the sky or the pattern of a breeze on the sea can take our minds on a journey that is of no less significance.
It is sometimes said that people travel to find themselves, but I can travel to the other side of the world only to discover that I am just the same person as I was before I left home. As the poet T S Eliot wrote so powerfully in Four Quartets,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
So during the lockdown, dream by all means of the freedom that we will hopefully enjoy again one day and plan your travels, but take this opportunity to slow down, to explore the world at your door and to remember that you do not need to go far to broaden your horizons.