As a kid, I was enthralled with all things ancient. Egypt, Rome, Greece, I couldn’t get enough. That affinity carries on. My home is decorated with the odd museum quality piece. I even picked up a Roman denarius on a recent trip to Spain and brought it back to Cambodia to have it turned into a hand-hammered gold ring.
One of the characters from Greek lore that has always resonated with me is Icarus, the son of Daedalus, the genius inventor and artisan. King Minos of Crete commissioned him to build a labyrinth and promptly imprisoned him on completion along with his son so that he couldn’t reveal the labyrinth’s secrets.
To escape, Daedalus fashioned wings made from feathers, string and wax and taught Icarus how to fly. He warned his son not to fly too close to the sea foam for the feathers would get wet or fly too close to the sun because the wax would melt.
But Icarus became so enthralled with the ability to fly that he forgot his father’s warning. The feathers came loose and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea.
While the story usually serves as a cautionary tale in moderation or the impulsiveness of youth, I can’t help but wonder what Icarus felt in those few giddy moments when he was soaring as free as a bird, traveling from Crete to Sicily.
I can only guess when I reflect on my own moments of travel giddiness. Those moments that come after relentless planning, spending way too much money and perhaps the odd travel mishap. It’s that one vignette, that one crystalline moment when you realize that whatever you’ve been through has been so worth it to get you there. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had more than my fair share — as a teenager, I remember catching my breath upon seeing the Eiffel tower for the first time. Or standing high on the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
In adult life, those moments have come fast and furious — descending down the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, gliding past soaring minarets on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, rounding the corner of the Siq to see the Treasury in Petra, looking down on Kathmandu from Swayambhunath with prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and the list goes on and on.
So whether you’re fortunate enough to travel often, or simply love to read about far flung places, here’s hoping that you have your own “Icarus” moments!
[Artwork is by the talented Bryan Larsen, who specializes in Romantic Realism. I like his structural approach to painting which reminds me a little of Leonardo da Vinci.]