Travelling for freedom

Travelling has always been a huge part of who I am. I love the sense of freedom that accompanies me when I travel; the feeling of wandering across new terrains, and the privilege of seeing my culture from a different perspective.

Luckily, I’ve always had the luxury of travelling out of choice, not necessity.

My great grandparents, however, who were of Irish and Italian decent, immigrated to America in the early 19th Century in search of a better life. Their trip was not dissimilar to that made by the relatives of many Maltese who left for Australia and Canada in masses after World War I, a period characterised by austerity and scarce opportunities.

Back then, my great grandparents were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, symbolising hope for a brighter future. The Statue of Liberty was not always considered a monument for immigration, but later became the symbol for movement following the millions of immigrants who arrived from Europe.

One of my favourite poems is actually etched on a bronze plate in the inner side of the Statue. The sonnet was written by the talented Emma Lazarus more than a hundred years ago, but its significance continues to resonate today.

This is the most memorable line: “Give us your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

It is sad to think that over a hundred years after my great grandparents made their way to Ellis Is-land on their big merchant ships, the vessels carrying migrants to Europe today are less seaworthy.

The North African migrants crossing the Mediterranean strip towards Europe are only yearning for an inch of freedom, a freedom incomparable to the kind I will ever experience when I travel, because the risks involved in getting there are so much greater for them.

An illustration from an 1887 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper showing immigrants being welcomed by the Statue of Liberty.