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Henry Freedman: World Traveller

When most Packer students were begrudgingly packing their bags in preparation for the beginning of second semester, senior Henry Freedman was packing his suitcase. The trip he was about to embark on was unlike any other he had taken, and was eight years in the making.

At 10 years old, Henry was diagnosed with an incredibly rare bone disease, Chronic Recurrent Multi-focal Osteomyelitis. CRMO causes your immune system to attack your bones, creating holes in them and making them prone to unprompted fractures. His doctors predicted that he would lose the ability to walk within a year, and much of Henry’s life became occupied with his diagnosis.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Henry’s mother decided to take him to the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, where injured and abused elephants are given a home. “I had been a patient for such a long time and she wanted me to be able to take care of someone or something else,” said Henry.

What was intended to be one experience to help Henry gain perspective ended up doing much more. When on the trip, his uncertainty of what his future held and the curiosity he had as a ten-year-old boy, led him to vow to his mother that by the time he graduated high school he would have visited every continent. Having already been to Europe and Australia, three continents still remained.

At the time, his goal seemed implausible. It was still expected that he would soon lose the ability to walk, and the plan was written off as mere fantasy. But what first seemed to be an unachievable goal slowly became a reality. Henry went on medications, got healthier, and began to travel all over the world.

At 16 years old, Henry started taking trips with Rustic Pathways, a travel program for teens, and quickly started checking continents off of his list. With Rustic Pathways, Henry visited Peru and Tanzania, where he climbed Kilimanjaro.

When Henry returned from his trip to Tanzania in junior year, his mission was nearly completed.

“When I came home from Africa, I was like: okay, one left.  My parents were both visibly confused and were asking me what I was talking about. I told them about that goal and my mom had completely forgotten about it.”

There was only one continent Henry had yet to visit: Antarctica. For weeks and weeks, Henry and his family searched for ways to get him there. After much scrolling and searching, they eventually found a cruise ship company called Silver Seas.

In anticipation of the trip, Henry had to work with his parents to raise the funds. The summer before senior year, Henry was able to get a job teaching parkour, another one of his passions.

“Parkour has always made me feel so good about myself and so happy. I used to be a gymnast and I had to stop, which was not a great time, and then I found parkour becoming popular and I just had to try it. There was just an instant connection with it.” Henry fondly recalled how he first got introduced to the sport: “Actually, the episode of The Office where everyone is screaming ‘parkour’ was my first introduction to it. Then I did research and got obsessed. I could not stop watching videos of them.”

Through his research and hard work, Henry was able to finally make the long-awaited trip to Antarctica. He went with his father, and through the cruise, they were able to visit 10 different landing sites.

Henry’s ten days in Antarctica were filled with exploration, as are all of his trips. Whether it be witnessing wildlife, appreciating the scenery, or getting to interact with the locals of his destinations, Henry is always widening his world view.

What these trips have enabled Henry to do is incredible, and what they have taught him is priceless. “Travel is such an incredible honor and privilege,” said Henry. In regards to what he has learned, Henry said, “I try to be more mindful of how much waste I create, and how I can care for the world around me. I try and think about how I can adjust and make myself a better person.”

Having made the dreams of his 10-year-old self a reality, only one question remains: What feat will Henry conquer next?

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