We all have an ego. Ego is good. Ego makes us boast and do things we may not have done otherwise. It’s a thing, some growth on the side of our stomach we didn’t invite. But we all have it. And like it, actually.
When considering going abroad, be it for the first time or again, let ego help you make that leap. But don’t let it get the best of you.
World travelers over the past millennia had egos. Ferdinand Magellan in the early 1500s said in his exploration to Patagonia (Argentina) he ran into, “Naked men of giant stature, where I only came up to their waist.” He also said they were, “dancing, singing and throwing dust on our heads.” Magellan probably did find tall people in Patagonia, and they were likely the Tehuelche tribe, standing tall at five feet eleven. Back then to a European that was tall.
Magellan’s goal was to circumnavigate the entire world. He sort of did, and during his voyage decided to name straits and even penguins after himself. That’s ego.
Are these half-truths and animal naming done wrongly? Ego is the motivator. And had it not been for ego such explorations would never had occurred.
Marco Polo was a 13/14th Century explorer from Italy who supposedly went to China and stayed for 24 years. In Polo’s time, China was the most advanced society on earth. Meticulous Chinese records indicate when wars began and ended, who was in charge of provinces, and if General Tso actually invented the best chicken recipe. A fun little battle between the Yuan Dynasty and the Mongols ended in 1273. Marco Polo, in his tell-all book written after his China trip, said he was a general during that war. He also wrote he arrived to China in 1275.
Math is fun.
Polo also wrote he was governor of Yang-Chou province. A Chinese historian at the time would have surely written that down. Nope. This was never mentioned in any historical notation from the Chinese. (Also never mentioned by Marco Polo was the Great Wall. Did he ever see it?!).
The test of time proves all. Ego fed gumption to these explorers. And these men likely did great things for the world and future generations. Had ego not played into their accounts it may have taken a few hundred years more to find and secure faster trading routes from Europe to Asia, and then to the New World. It may even have been a hundred more years for someone like Christopher Columbus to chart correctly where Central and South America is (he never “found” what is now North America, remember).
Ego is good. Ego pushes us to explore. But stay in check. Time will test you and what you’ve accomplished in life. Go explore and come back with fascinating tales. Find and make new friends abroad. Name a fun-filled day after yourself where you enjoyed stimulating conversation with classmates in Grenoble, France; when you toured vineyards, biking and tasting the Andes Mountains in Argentina; when you pitched a graphic art design concept to a client in front of your internship employer in London, and it was accepted. Name a day like these after yourself. Claim it yours. It may be ego, but you will be remembered, and remembered for something real. Just don’t let it get the best of you. Keep yourself in check.
And if walking the boulevards of Buenos Aires one night, look up at the sky and claim a shooting star your own. You’re an explorer. Act like one.
Tony Amante Schepers