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“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” 

― Carl Sagan

I love to plan. My earliest memories involve drawing calendars and daydreaming about my future. Maybe you were this way, too. This month, we’re focusing on what it means to explore, a pastime often relegated to summer breaks or holidays. What I’ve learned is that you don’t need Ferdinand and Isabella’s wealth or NASA’s backing to explore. You just need hope. 

Every day, scientists and researchers are pushing the limits of exploration. How can you do the same in your community? Your professional life? Or simply your day-to-day existence. 

Whenever you arrive in a new city or situation, the first thing you do is poke your toes in the water. But what compelling insight would you discover if you just dove right in? 

Today, the farthest human-made object from Earth is the Voyager I probe, a spacecraft launched in 1977 carrying two phonographic records. Carl Sagan envisioned the project. Among the discs’ content are the music of J.S. Bach, greetings from around the world, and myriad nature sounds, including a mother and child. Ideally, the discs told the story of humanity, but Sagan knew they barely scratched the surface of it. To him, they symbolized hope. 

Exploration without hope is like a jet without fuel. You can’t move without it. Animals also explore, but what propels them is instinct. Hope is yet another aspect of our being that defines humanity. 

When I first arrived in Hanoi I wanted to create meaningful work. As I explored, I allowed hope to guide me. Then, one day I found my treasure: a brilliant, young, bed-bound woman who irrevocably changed my life. She flung me on a path towards medicine. And it all began with hope.

For you, hope might be reconnecting with dormant skills, trying a new career, or building the business you always dreamed about. Or maybe it’s closer to home: quality family time, a life immersed in nature, a deeper connection to humanity. To begin to explore, you must ask yourself, "What is my hope?" 

This summer, many of us are leaving our adopted homes for good or for a few months. Summer marks the return to familiar shores, where people ask questions about where you are going or what you are doing next, or—and this is my favorite—if you are ever coming home? It's overwhelming not to have an answer. Just remember, Carl Sagan didn't either.

Voyager I has no plans to return to Earth. It will keep moving into interstellar space. May you continue to explore the same way, always reaching towards hope, or better yet, the stars.


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