A last frontier?

The United States was a country that was partially shaped by its idea of ‘frontier’ and ever-outward expansion.  To a certain extent, the modern American still has a sense of himself as ruggedly individualistic and ready to pit himself against the world.  That external world, however, has greatly changed.  The frontier, even in remote areas of Alaska, doesn’t truly exist the way it once did.  Now it seems that one of the last frontiers will become more easily reachable – the oceans.

Scientists around the world are currently cataloguing and delving deep into the oceans.  Their aim is to gather enough data to complete a sort of ocean ‘census’ by 2010.  The data already collected is already providing interesting results: new depths at which ocean predators like jellyfish are sucessful, new habits and migrations of sharks, massive congregations of aquatic life in unusual places.  Researchers will meet Tuesday to begin compilation of various data points.  They will be working in association with the website PLoS ONE to get the content out, which is fabulous.  Who doesn’t like direct access?

Itchy feet.

Tired of the same humdrum neighborhood or weather?  Getting fed up with your current work/life situation?  Feeling the call of somewhere, anywhere else?  I’ve got the answer – move.

CNN Money recently put out this article and study about the top hundred places in the US for a mix of ‘business advantages and lifestyle appeal’.  While the article was a nice little summary of places I might like to go, someday, what caught me more about its content was the general theme of the piece.  It’s an extreme and large case of ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.   With worries running high about the financial markets and investment, CNN Money is giving us this big hint that the solution is to move.

It’s not hard to understand this call for movement.  Historically, the US has been a country of expansion, new frontiers, and an every-broadening dissatisfaction with what’s at hand.  I often wistfully think about going someplace new and exotic – it’s a part of the call that got me to take off two years for gallivanting in China.  And there is something to be said for new experience, new adventure, and learning different customs and places.

But that advantage comes with a price.  In my generation of frequent international travel and the world wide web, I don’t consider it extraordinary to go to Europe.   Places like Africa and Asia are the ones that still hold drama, even as that drama lessens with each passing year.  Instead, there is a restlessness, a lack of rooting, an idea that somewhere or something else might be better that I struggle with every day.  Knowing that I might change my career path 4 or 5 times in my life does not make me particularly interested in investing time in any one career or location.  Consequently, I’ve become a dabbler.

It’s not that I don’t value variety, or a broad, liberal-arts scope to education.  it’s not that I don’t see the value of developing skills in a variety of areas and professions. It’s just that I fear that I – that all of those of my generation – will end up leading lives of all spice and no substance.  That doesn’t make for a very filling life.