What is this fascination that we have with record-breaking things? The tallest building. The deepest ocean, the longest bridge, the highest mountain. We often visit these things when we travel. It’s like we can then claim them. By being there, we win some sort of psychological prize.
When I see the pictures of the crowds of people trying to summit Mount Everest, they make me cringe. You’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to risk your life. You’ve given up weeks of time to acclimate to high altitudes. And there you are, scuttling amongst a bunch of other people in crowds that are better suited to Times Square during a New Year’s celebration. It defies logic.
We may think we are some higher form of animal, but what we seem to be doing is marking our territory like the average stray dog. I don’t really understand the instinct. It’s exceedingly strange.
But I can’t say I’m immune to it. I recently gazed upon the largest Ponderosa pine in the state of Oregon, and crossed over the longest continuous truss bridge in North America (the Astoria-Megler Bridge). While we didn’t go out of our way to cross this particular bridge (it was on our route), it was beautiful. We did go out of our way to see the tree, which was also pretty amazing. If I had seen a tree that was six inches shorter, though, I’m sure it would have been equally amazing.
You know what? I didn’t feel like a different person after either experience. Neither one was transformative.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from traveling. It’s my reason for being, so who am I to judge? But I think this instinct to see the biggest and the best often makes for a letdown.
This… thing that many of us seem to be searching for is elusive at best, and profoundly disappointing at worst. Nothing tops our imaginations.