If there is one thing worth remembering every Columbus Day, it is that when Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492 on the journey that would lead him to discover America, he was not looking for America -- but for India.
History has shown us that good things come to those who get moving, and that being on the move is often more important than knowing exactly where you are headed. Indeed, great journeys have a way of taking us to places we never could have imagined.
Had Columbus reached India, he would have encountered a people that believe deeply in the power of journeys to awaken unforeseen opportunities. In the Rig Veda, one of Hinduism's four canonical texts, we see this wisdom manifest in the words of the goddess Indra to Rohita, a young man upon whom she urges a life on the road:
The fortune of him who is sitting, sits; it rises when he rises; it sleeps when he sleeps; it moves when he moves. Therefore, wander!
If Columbus were to visit India nowadays, he would find a rapidly modernizing country where tech-savvy Millennials are following in Rohita's footsteps. A case in point is the Jagriti Yatra, an annual journey that takes hundreds of entrepreneurial Indian Millennials on an 8,500 kilometer train ride across India to meet innovative leaders, entrepreneurs, and social changemakers. Over the course of the last decade, this journey has become something of a totem to the aspirations of many of India's most enterprising and civic-minded youth, a rite of passage for the next generation. Last year, some 20,000 Indian Millennials applied for 400 spots.
Here in the United States, the Millennial generation (age 18-32) is looking for new paths to prosperity. While modern technology has dramatically increased our ability to search for information (and generated plenty of wealth in the process), it will have done us a great disservice if the quick answers it provides end up blunting our innate desire to undertake grand journeys in these uncertain times.
What America needs is a Jagriti Yatra of its own -- a journey to explore examples of economic opportunity, reimagine what we are capable of achieving, and reconnect with a time in American history when people physically came together to engage in the arduous work of nation building... and succeeded.
The Millennial Trains Project (MTP), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, is working to do just that. Over the course of 2013, MTP is gearing up to run a series of transcontinental train journeys across the United States. On board each of these trains will be emerging pioneers of the Millennial generation who are eager to disrupt the status quo and co-create new ways of doing things.
In travelling across the geographical breadth of our country with a critical eye as to what is working and what is possible, we hope to discover, as Columbus did, a new world of opportunity.
Follow Patrick Dowd on Twitter: www.twitter.com/millennialtrain