Travel is often all about chasing the famous. Sites that we have seen our whole lives on book pages are suddenly real. They are tangible and no longer images on a page. Then again, travel is often all about just chasing the journey, to feel something that we wouldn’t have felt staying in the comforts of home. The journey is usually unknown to the traveler. They can’t foresee it or expect it. Finding this balance of both awe-inspiring, famous sites and the mere journey is not always obtainable. Sometimes we get one and not the other. We set out to see Paris and the journey there ends up being the story. I set out for a piece of Kentucky for perhaps the famous but I ended up with a journey of time and humility instead.
In grade school, I had to memorize the Gettysburg Address. Arguably one of the greatest speeches in American history, I loved the dramatic pauses, the simplicity of its words and the lack of words. A good speech moves you to the point where your knees bend, your mouth quivers and your emotions can’t be tamed. I like to think of travel in this regard. The best trips should move you to the point where your knees bend, your mouth quivers and your emotions can’t and will not be tamed. Such a simple yet powerful speech came from Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Considered one of the greatest presidents, I went to see his humble beginnings in Kentucky, to see Lincoln’s old Kentucky home.
I envisioned those famous sketches of a log cabin. Honest Abe was born in a simple and small log cabin on February 12, 1809 just outside of Hodgenville, Kentucky . Called the Sinking Spring Farm after the spring that the Lincolns used, I make the trek up 56 steps to the spot where the cabin used to stand.
Today, a reconstructed version lords over within a grand neoclassical monument. The original is long gone, but I can still sense humility here. Travel can show you that no matter where you come from, your home, your final chapter can tell a very different tale. Where and how we travel through the world is not limited to where we came from in the end. It can influence our journey yet it never dictates it.
I make the journey 10 miles up the road to visit where Lincoln spent a little more time, the first home that he remembered. Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood Home at Knob Creek served as the Lincoln residence from 1811 to 1816. The family lived on 30 acres of 228 acres at Knob Creek.
Deserted with not a park ranger in sight, I admire a field where a future President frolicked. Lincoln said his earliest recollection took place at Knob Creek. It was the first time he witnessed slavery, a practice that he would famously set out to abolish in the United States. Knob Creek is also home to the creek where Lincoln infamously almost drowned. If it weren’t for a childhood friend who saved him, this site would probably be meaningless.
A car pulls over to snap a quick shot of yet another Lincoln cabin, this one also a reconstruction of the family home. They pause for not more than one single moment, one click of the camera and then they are off. They have seen the famous site and must be on their way. I pause and ponder, standing on the grounds of a president that almost wasn’t and a cause that he had to see firsthand. It is both the fame of this space that makes it grand and yet also the journey that took place here. From humble beginnings and homes, Lincoln’s impact on the world truly traveled. His ideals on equality are still being tested today. I traveled down to his old Kentucky home to experience a buckling of the knees, a mouth quiver and emotions that I wouldn’t want to tame. And that is what travel should be, from one man’s humble home to a traveler’s journey.
Have you ever been to Lincoln’s birthplace and boyhood home in Kentucky? Is it important for you to seek out travels that combine famous sites and the journey?