Where are the four corners of your world?

13 Sep

What is the farthest point north, south, east, and west that you’ve ever been?

I’m interested in this question not to see how well-traveled people are, but rather to see what points on the globe mentally represent the ends of the Earth for people, the boundaries of their experiences on this planet.

These are mine:

Farthest Point North – Near Duntulm Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom

I went the farthest north I’ve ever been in June of 2007, as recounted in a previous blog post (right after the picture of the Old Man of Storr). This was during a bus ride around the northeastern peninsula of the Isle of Skye. The bus had finally let off all the local school children, so it was just me and a few Gaelic-speaking locals enjoying the scenery.

Looking out across the sea, seeing towering mountains in the distance on neighbouring islands, was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my entire life. There was a sense here, more than any of my other “farthest points,” of truly being at the edge of the world. Everything seemed so vast, so epic. For a brief moment, I found myself in the Medieval Europe of my childhood imagination, a place with endless open spaces. The mountains across the sea looked so unreachable and so desolate that it seemed as if I’d reached a place untouched by time. There was definitely something primordial about this place. The cold winds whipping off the sea reinforced the feeling of being at the edge of the Earth.

This is the most northerly photograph I’ve ever taken, shortly before passing the ruins of the ancient Duntulm Castle:

Farthest Point South – Near the airport in Tampa, Florida

A slightly less exotic location. In fact, it’s more of an approximation since I’m not sure exactly how far south we ended up going, but Tampa is definitely the southernmost city I’ve been to. Considering that Tampa isn’t particularly very far south on the Earth, it isn’t surprising that I don’t associate it with a feeling of being at the edge of the world. Rather, it represents a temporary boundary that I’d very much like to cross.

My two springtime vacations to Florida are very fond memories from my childhood, and in particular I always remember the feeling of the warm, tropical air at night after we landed at the Orlando airport in 1997. That’s a sensation that I haven’t had a chance to recapture in over a decade, and once I have the ability to do so, I’m heading south towards the dreamy blue waters of the Caribbean.

Farthest Point East – near Interlaken, Switzerland

My farthest point east was somewhat… impromptu. At the eastern terminus of a very scenic train ride between Montreux and Interlaken (described here), I decided to get off at the “Interlaken East” station instead of the “Interlaken West” station, since the former appeared closer to Brienzer See (the lake pictured above). In retrospect, the West station would have been the wiser choice since it’s actually located in the centre of Interlaken.

Instead, I walked for several minutes along a roadside with the hopes of reaching the lake, except that I had no map on hand and no idea how to reach the shore. Since I had to hurry back to the station to catch my train back to Montreux, I never did have a chance to reach the lake. I snapped my most easterly photograph ever and then turned around:

The fact that I turned around before reaching my destination is a good metaphor for how I view my farthest point east. There is so much of the world that lies to the east of this point which I haven’t had the time to see yet. It almost seemed as if there was an invisible barrier preventing me from going any farther, but that barrier will soon be broken. I will unlock a whole new area of the game.

Farthest Point West – on the Pacific Coast Highway, south of San Francisco, California

In August of 2006, my dad and I made a trip from San Francisco to LA along the PCH before the start of my sophomore year of college. It proved to be one of the most scenic journeys I’ve ever taken, and my dad got annoyed by my frequent requests for photo stops.

It’s easy to see how this can feel like the edge of the world. There is absolutely nothing on the horizon except the largest ocean in the world. And yet, when I look across the Pacific I don’t get the same feeling of isolation that I felt on the Isle of Skye. Maybe I just don’t know how to mentally compute looking west across an ocean, since I’m so accustomed to looking east across the Atlantic.

There’s almost something slightly melancholic about the Pacific Coast. It really does feel like the end… the end of the sun’s journey in a given day, which sometimes can feel like the end of eternity. Is that even possible? Well, before I get *too* philosophical, here’s the most westerly photo I’ve ever taken:

Where are the four corners of your world?


4 Responses to “Where are the four corners of your world?”

  1. botogol 14 September 2008 at 12:32 #

    Here’s mine

  2. Megan 14 September 2008 at 23:15 #

    Let’s see…

    North – Inverness, Scotland
    South – Brisbane, Australia
    East – Xiamen, China (or Brisbane, Australia)
    West – San Francisco, USA


    Is that dinner coming along? How’s school? We should do lunch sometime!

  3. squamloon 20 September 2008 at 16:27 #

    Wow. You’ve sparked quite a conversation here, and you’ve got me really thinking about emulating your post… the only problem is, my photos will need to be found in boxes and scanned… and the research incvolved in finding the exact points is daunting…

    But here’s an approximation, in case I never get to it.

  4. Duke Togo 29 July 2009 at 16:57 #

    Excluding in-flight (because trips to the Orient can take you over the pole):
    North – Stronsay / Orkney 59 degrees North?
    South – Fiji
    East – Grand Canyon (I went East from birthplace to get there)
    West – San Francisco (I went West from my birthplace to get there).
    High – 2000M??? In Alps???
    Low – Death Valley, California, 100m below sea-level

    Duely noted that my Easternmost extremity is in fact overlapping with my Westernmost…

    Just to let you know, next week I’m planning to reach the Northenmost, Southernmost, Westernmost, Easternmost ppoints of mainland GB, as well as the highest and lowest. See my blog for more details.

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