"Wasn’t that the most meaningful outcome of any kind of exploration? To reveal the old world—and ourselves—anew?"
"Most aspects of Oxford—from the twisting cobbled streets to Corsi’s lectures—encouraged digression, which is, after all, just a sideways method for stumbling on connection."
"After being on an achievement bender most of my life, the prospect of withdrawal, of doing anything without external approval, or better yet acclamation, kept me obediently between lines I couldn’t even recognize as lines. Isn’t that the final, most forceful triumph of borders? The way they make us accept as real and substantial what we can’t actually see?"
"...suggesting that borders are little more than collective myths—fictions that a certain number of people, for a certain period of time, believe are fact."
"We long our whole lives for things we’ve never known, places we’ve never been, abstractions that come alive to us in unexpected ways."
"The wildness of a place or experience isn’t in the place or experience, necessarily, but in you—your capacity to see it, feel it. In that sense, biking the Silk Road is an exercise in calibration. Anyone can recognize wildness on the Tibetan Plateau; the challenge is perceiving it in a roadside picnic area in Azerbaijan."
"I wondered whether we’re most alive in our moments of longing, the act of launching for a place we’re not certain to land."
"...the way Neil Armstrong said he could blot out the Earth from the moon with his thumb. “Did that make you feel really big?” someone asked him upon his return. “No,” the first moonwalker confessed in a rare candid moment. “It made me feel really, really small.”"
"He also included a photograph of someone climbing a jagged spire in the Alps.
“If the recipients recognize the silhouetted human figure, they may guess that it was both difficult and seemingly pointless to scale this rock needle. The only point would be the accomplishment of doing it. If this message is communicated, it will tell extraterrestrials something very important about us.”"
"And why not err on the side of audacity when it comes to this one and only life?"
"But exploration, more than anything, is like falling in love: the experience feels singular, unprecedented, and revolutionary, despite the fact that others have been there before."
"More cold gusts stripped the poplars of the few leaves they had left, the wind more alive than the branches it moved, and so big it could only be the mountains breathing."