One Hundred Miles
I have found yet another way to show some of the privileges that I and most anyone reading this blog enjoy. Forget for a moment the fact that half the world lives on just a few dollars a day or that hundreds of millions have such limited access to food, water, health care, education... all those basic rights. Forget all those things for a moment and just look at this:
5.2 billion people, 80% of the world's population, have never traveled more than 100 miles from their home.
Admittedly, travel is incomprable to the importance of income, food, water, health or education, but just think about the statistic above. There may very well be people in developed parts of the world that never see much point in going far from their home, and they may stay near it their entire life. Just the other day though I completely underestimated the distance between Ketchikan and Salem, Oregon. I needed to know it for a questionnaire and I was thinking it might have been under five hundred miles, given that the options for answering were assorted ones under 500 and then an "over 500 miles." I don't know what I was thinking, since the real answer is 841 miles. Maybe it's just because I live in Alaska, but 100 miles seems like nothing to me when it comes to travelling. Juneau is more than twice that distance away, let alone Seattle or Anchorage, which are commonplace stops for many residents of my town. If I were like 80% of humanity, I wouldn't even be able to see all of Prince of Wales Island, I'd barely make it to Prince Rupert, and I'd never even get to Petersburg. (More accurately, I wouldn't have been able to get 100 miles of my birthplace in Decatur, Georgia - but I am much more familiar with the surroundings of my Alaskan hometown.)
(Image: Ketchikan stretches south to Rupert on Google Earth. Hello Canadian friends: You're within range.)
Travel is just a single way in which we the members of the developed and wealthy parts of the world have access to so many more opportunities than the vast majority of our fellow human beings. Think for a moment if all people could see as much of the world as we are privileged to see. The thousands of miles I've racked up in my life have added immeasurably to my knowledge and awareness, my desire to learn and explore, my sense of natural wonder and cultural understanding... countless things that everyone should have a chance to experience.
Maybe it'll take a technological advance as drastic as teleportation in order for some people to have the opportunity to explore places more than a hundred miles from their home. I, however, will still hope for a world where the greater portions of humanity are not so shackled by the inequity of poverty and lack of opportunity - a world where everyone will have the money and time for a train ticket or flight - the security and opportunity needed for exploration, for learning, and for greater understanding of the wide world in which we live.
Take advantage of your opportunities. See the world, and perhaps you can help others to see it with you.