“What is even more astonishing is that the entire science of wayfinding is based on dead reckoning. You only know where you are by knowing precisely where you have been and how you got to where you are.”
- Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.
Between working full time and getting my masters, I have done a lot less adventuring in 2017. When I started writing, adventure was a monthly occasion. Now, I have to adapt to a new kind of adventure, perhaps not as sweet, but still satisfying. Nevertheless, the voyager mindset lives and breathes in my mind. To satiate this thirst, I have been doing a lot more casual research on different cultures. My most recent obsession is with wayfinders of the South Pacific islands.
Perhaps you too have flown over the ocean. Though I am certain that the handful of hours in a plane pales in comparison to sailing, it gives a small sense of how vast the ocean is. A wayfinder or navigator, was a sailor who remained awake for days, guiding his canoe by the rhythm of waves and the changing of the stars.
When Captain Cook, a man thought to be the best navigator of his time, met the wayfinders, he was astonished, their knowledge of the sea far deeper than his. These men, no matter where they were, always knew where they had been and where they were going, even when where they were going was an island yet undiscovered. The skill is almost unfathomable; a wayfinder is said not to discover islands, but rather to pull islands out of the sea by holding a vision of them in their mind.
The key to wayfinding is knowing where you are by knowing precisely where you have been.
Most of us do not know where we are going; life is yet to be defined. But, knowing where we have been is something we can grasp. Our destination will never hold a clear path as we look ahead, but we can look back and know exactly where we came from. The experiences of our past have shaped us into the people we are today. Though we should not get lost in the past, wayfinding through life requires reminiscing, giving thanks for past experiences and reveling in the life you have lived up to this moment.
It may be difficult to feel this in your present situation. Imagine the wayfinder, there he sits in the middle of the ocean drained from exhaustion, his eyes fixed upon the stars, his mind calculating the rhythm of the waves. He left his island home perhaps for prestige, adventure or necessity, likely never to return. The only thing he holds onto is the island in his mind, the one he will pull from the seas.
Be the wayfinder. Wherever or whatever your island is, if you hold it in your mind, you will never get lost. Know exactly who you are by knowing where you have been.