This summer in the span of 2 months, my feet touched the soil of 7 countries across 3 geographical continents.
I traveled with…
- My mom
- My mom’s long-time family friends who we always ring in the New Year with
- 2 Aunts – my mom’s sister and a close family friend
- Friends I befriended less than a year ago in college
And I met so many new friends along the way. Friends who…
- Invited us into their home to root for their local football (soccer) team
- Took care of me when I had a fever in the mountains
- Shared love and philosophical advice
- Met celebrities in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania!
- Spoke multiple languages fluently and switched between them with ease
- Shared hidden gems
- Cracked really corny jokes
- Educated me
- Talked about their aspirations and qualms about the country
- Loved their country
I spent a lot of time soaking it all in. The normal-ness of these new and different places. The injustices and troubling feelings I felt when something didn’t felt right.
Grateful and privileged, I was deeply welcomed and wholeheartedly loved this summer.
A question I have been asking myself recently:
Do I want to visit all of the countries in the world? Do I want to set a goal of visiting all of the national parks in the US? Or all of the countries in one region? Should I make plans to visit x amount of places each year? What does my bucket list look like… right now it’s empty… should it be full?
You’ve been to all 7 continents, you’re such a world traveler! Where to next?
This summer really highlighted my affinity for traveling. I love to travel. I do.
But no, I do not want to visit every country in the world.
1. How can I measure my travels by the number of countries I’ve visited, when the definition of a country can be so subjective?
Whose perspective lens are we peering through? My friend Salemani is Maasai, one of the 192 tribes found in Kenya and Tanzania. Although they are only the 3rd largest tribe, they are quite famous for their bright clothes and impressive jumping abilities. Salemani explained that when you are born within the Maasai tribe, you are considered Maasai first and foremost. Not Kenyan, not Tanzania, but Maasai. It is only if, and when, you register for school, that you will be registered under the country of your location. To the outside world, we may look at Salemani and view him as Kenyan or Tanzanian. However for them, it can be merely a designation. For them, they are Maasai.
It is a small example of how words can shift in meanings depending on how you ask. Do I travel to increase my country count? Do I count Taiwan as a country or not? What if territories are added or taken away? Who’s list is most “valid”? Should I tie my “accomplished traveler” title to this list?
For me, not at this time.
I love taking macro shots before I zoom in deep. But that’s the thing… it’s just a snapshot, a point of reference, a way to gauge where I am at.
It does not define my travel saviness.
I’ve met plenty of ignorant and ungrateful people who have traveled absolutely everywhere… and plenty of responsible and conscious people who have never been on a plane.
2. There are so many layers to each country we visit.
Each country may differ by region, geography, government, economy, natural resources, culture, language, and more. One city, even two, cannot capture the entirety of a country. I would never say New York City is the epitome of the United States. What about the rest of the country? Even IF we walked up and down every street in Manhattan and say we’ve SEEN all of the city, what about stepping inside the stores? Striking a conversation with a New Yorker? Watching a show on Broadway? Spending time meandering through Central Park?
In my mind, there is always so much more to explore and understand. There will always be cities, people, and cultures that my eyes, ears, and heart will never reach.
We can travel and recognize that we’re only getting a snapshot of a very complex system. We can check off a country on our bucket list and acknowledge the rest of the untouched beauty we were unable to reach — There can always be more to learn.
We can be selective about what we share. We can be intentional about how we share our experiences.
When we travel, we naturally become ambassadors for where we’ve come from. When we return home, we can choose to become ambassadors for where we’ve been.
Do you have a travel goal? What experiences will you prioritize? How much money will you spend? What activities will you do?
How many layers deep do you want to go?
3. The feeling of travel can be felt on a local level too.
I am a very lucky and grateful duck. My life, my privilege, my situation has afforded me countless opportunities to visit many different places.
- Guilt, for participating in a service trip abroad
- Wonder, while visiting the Wonders of the World
- Disgust, walking through somber places
- Conflict, visiting my orphanage
- Joy, from cherishing the unexpected twists and turns
- Insignificant, in big places
- Compassion, for other ways of living a “normal” life
The list continues.
Traveling abroad has also made me think about my carbon footprint with using so much airplane travel, and if I’d like to make “responsible” choices to offset my carbon footprint. The role of tourism on a country’s development is an interesting topic of discussion. There’s just a lot of thoughts I’d like to think about with regards to how I wish to travel in the future.
As my priorities in life continuously shift, I’ve recently been very content with local travel experiences that evoke similar reactions. Traveling to the library counts as visiting some place new. Running through a different section of town makes me think about geographic shifts in culture and accessibility. Visiting a museum transports me temporarily to another world. Finding a quiet cemetary nestled adjacent to a loud highway can be such a romantic surprise.
I haven’t been everywhere… and “everywhere” is not on my list right now.
Maybe in the next chapter of my life, my desire to travel farther distances will grow stronger. Maybe I’ll have more concrete travel goals.
Until then, the distance traveled will be small, the intention remains, and the growth will continue.