Once upon a time, approximately 335 million years ago, our planet was made of one supercontinent called “Pangea”. It assembled then and remained until plates moved and broke it apart about 200 million years ago. Pangea wasn’t the first supercontinent and may not be the last. 

I was reminded of this part of our world’s history a couple of weeks ago by the talented artist @clay_decorland. Keen to order one of her beautiful mugs, I reached out. She was open to designing something personalised and so I mentioned ‘travel’ and the ‘world’ as key words of inspiration. A few days later, she sent me a picture of her gorgeous creation. 

The picture came with a lovely message: “This is Pangea: the earth with one supercontinent before it broke down into the continents we know now. I thought that this would represent well the idea of a world without borders.” 

I was surprised – how could I have not thought about Pangea before? Next thing I knew, my creative juices were flowing. 

Continents and countries are temporary 

Seeing the colorful interpretation of Pangea on a mug reminded me that continents and countries are ever-evolving human constructs.  

They changed then – from one supercontinent, to the fragmented map we know today – and continue to do so. We may not see it with our own eyes, but the plates underneath us move and the made-up borders around us constantly evolve. 

Don’t believe me? Curious to find out more? Either way, take a moment to watch this incredible video showing the time lapse of borders and reminding us that countries are transient.        

Yet we allow them to define us

Where are you from? That dreaded question that gives you cold sweats. I always stand there for a few awkward seconds torn between giving them the short answer they’re after or the long story that still doesn’t capture all the colourful nuances that make identity, community, and home. 

Taiye Selasi says it more eloquently than I ever could in her brilliant TED Talk: Don’t ask where I’m from, ask me where I’m a local. At the start, she asks: 

  • How can I come from a country?
  • How can a human being come from a concept?

Having tried since watching this talk, I must admit that not using countries as a way to define ourselves and introduce each other, is more difficult that it initially sounds. It feels strange, unfamiliar, and somewhat incomplete.    

But what if we changed our ways?  

Now that borders seem tighter than ever and that we are more connected virtually than we can be physically, Pangea seems to be nothing more than a distant memory. Of course, I understand why sealing our borders is currently critical – for health and safety reasons. However, I worry that they will continue to be closed for the wrong ones: convenience, control, and fear. This keeps me up at night. 

I cannot imagine living in a further divided and fragmented world where human connection and freedom are things of the past. What can we do about this you may wonder? Well, we can all start by no longer asking each other ‘where are you from?’ but instead: 

  • What is your story? 
  • What do you value? 
  • What makes you you

The list goes on and I’d love to hear what you’d prefer to be asked. That way, we can all continue to break down barriers and borders – even if more metaphorically than physically for now – one question at a time. 

To end on another thought that has been on my mind ever since receiving my beautiful Pangea mug. Imagine for a second that our continents collided again and that a new supercontinent came to life… What would you think, feel, do differently now and then?