When I was growing up, we lived out in the country where there were a lot of animals, but not a lot of kids. Animals were my constant companions. When I wasn’t busy with my horses, dogs, cats, and the cows (not ours) out in the back pasture, I’d amuse myself with my mind. Like my daughter, Caitlin, I wasn’t a great sleeper, so while lying awake at night I’d often play “What If” games.

Some of my “What If’s” ran along very noble lines like: What if I were asked to live a solitary life until I died, in exchange for world peace? Would I do it? I contemplated that question deeply and believed that I would. (I’ve since learned how to be more pro-active on issues that matter to me.)

Then there were the more run-of-the-mill “What If’s” like: What if I could speak every language in the world? Or, what if I could talk to anybody I wanted to in all the world? Or, if I really wanted to stretch that one, what if I could talk to anybody I wanted to who ever lived?! I could easily keep myself busy until the wee hours of the morning.

I’d be off, sliding down Alice’s rabbit hole, never knowing where I’d land after bumping and thumping around the twists and turns in my own mind, growing big, growing small, playing croquet with the queen’s live flamingos.

What I’d never envisioned was something like the internet coming along to make many of my “What If’s” not only a possibility, but a reality. I can read and converse in nearly any language online now, thanks to free translation sites like Babel Fish, and World Lingo.

For someone who has a passion for studying human nature, there’s something about being able to drop in on web sites and blogs from around the world, undeterred by language barriers, or newspaper slants — to read in those individuals’ own words how they see their life, their culture, their world — that just blows my mind. I’ve gained an insight that I believe is invaluable. In the process, I’ve made friends from around the globe — friends who’ve extended standing invitations to come visit.

As for speaking with anyone from the past, I can read any text (ancient or more recent) from any library around the world (as long as it’s been made available online). And as for speaking to any person I can think of? Much of the world can be found and contacted through online searches.

What greater rabbit hole for a writer than the internet. Anything I imagine, I can research. With a click of the mouse–I’m off to join the Mad Hatter for tea.