Daydreams of world travel often feature champagne greetings, comfy first-class seats, romantic train rides with stunning scenery, moderate hikes to gorgeous vistas, and contemplative strolls through historic sites that connect your soul with antiquity.
But, yeah, you know where we’re going with this one, right?
My grandfather was a quiet man with a snarky sense of humor, but what he was more than anything was good man who cared about his family. I remember being a kid and walking around our 10 acre property with him in upstate Pennsylvania. He taught me all about the trees. I remember one that smelled like bubble gum and another that taste like root beer. He took us deer spotting and bird watching, and my grandmother took us berry picking and to Sunday bingo. I remember those days fondly.
My most cherished memory of my Pop was when I was 21. What 21 year-old college student signs up to spend a week on the road with her parents and grandparents? This girl. At ages 10, 20, 30 and now nearly 40, I’ve always love spending time with my family (perhaps not at age 14, but that’s a different story).
I had the great fortune to travel to Europe a few times while in college, and it opened up a whole world to me about art, history and humanity. Although I was a business major, I took every philosophy, art history, and anthropology class I could in college. I was overwhelmed and excited about my newfound knowledge.
So my parents, my two Grans and my Pop rented a van and traveled all over Colorado. As I said, my Pop was a quiet man, but once you got him on a topic, he really opened up. We sat in the back of the van together the whole trip, and I started telling him about what I was learning in college. I brought up Friedrich Nietzsche, The Trial of Socrates, Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. And then my Pop started talking about all of these people, philosophies and creations in incredible analytical detail. I was absolutely floored by his knowledge. He was a blue-collar, self-educated man. And for the first time, I understood the extent of his self-education. We talked for hours a day in the back of that van on our road trip. We spent the most time talking about the impressionism because it was my new passion, and he knew so much about it as an artist himself.
What I liked most about our conversations was how interested he was in spending time with me and hearing my opinions. He was my intellectual superior by far, but he really wanted to know his granddaughter’s thoughts … and I really wanted to know his.
Pop wasn’t the most affectionate guy, but he was very loving. At the end of that week, he hugged me and said, “We’re kindred spirits, Lis.” And that’s a memory I’ll hold onto forever. I love you, Pop.
Well the obvious answer is that I’m not Canadian. I’m American.
I don’t always feel like I agree with the majority of Americans. Nor do I think the world view of Americans represents who I am. But who does?
I love my country. Not with blind national pride, nor with the false idea that living elsewhere wouldn’t be as satisfying. I love my country because it’s what I know, how I was molded, and what I recognize in my core as home.
I love to roam as far away from home as possible, but I equally love to return.
Many Americans at any point on the political spectrum feel our system is broken. But I believe in it – not that it’s without corruption or imbalanced persuasion, but I don’t believe that any other system has perfected governance either.
I like that I can challenge my neighbor, my congress, my judicial system. But I also recognize we have serious inequities and humanitarian dilemmas.
Still, what bothers me the most in my travels is when my fellow Americans tell me they say they are Canadian when they travel. “You’d be amazed at how much better you’re treated if you wear a Canadian flag on your backpack,” a traveller told me on my first trek through Europe in 1998. I have heard a similar sentiment throughout the nearly twenty years of world travel I’ve done since.
I LOVE Canada and Canadians!
I’m not refuting the notion that Canadians are better received as guests in other countries, but why not be the best American I can be and make a good impression as I leave my footprints on the world’s surface?
Why deny who I am? Where we are from sets the foundation for our lives. It is paramount that we all rise above the labels we’ve been given without any reason other than it’s where we are from or it’s how others have behaved that came before us.
Maybe instead we should reflect upon why we may be received negatively and try to develop a better cultural understanding to move beyond the stereotype.
I am an American. I am my own unique person. I am a citizen of the world. I am proud of all these things.
“To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals.” ~ Mikhail Gorbachev
I wrote an entire blog entry on Pantheism, then shied away from posting it. Instead, I will end my journey through the east with some reflective thoughts and an overtly Pantheistic theme.
For the last five years, I’ve lived in a vacation town with a beautiful, calm, and warm ocean and a tropical climate that stubbornly maintains a humid 88F/30C degrees year round. While this has its advantages, and I honestly thought I would be living there permanently, this trip around the globe has really made me long for home. By “home” I mean Pennsylvania. It’s more than just longing to be close to friends and family. It has to do with Pennsylvania itself.
Over the last few months, I walked beside beautiful waterfalls and volcanoes, trekked through jungle and rainforest, canoed and kayaked by river, lake, and sea, climbed over muddy mangrove roots in my bare feet, watched the sunrise over the Himalayas and Uluru, and felt the cool evening breeze of the Outback against my skin while gazing at stars that stretched to the horizon.
One night, in Port Douglas, Australia, as I was walking home from the market, I looked up at the sky and saw that, instead of my usual Orion, the Southern Cross was guiding me home. This sent a thrill through me that I can’t possibly explain! I’m sure it was as odd a sight as when I was literally hugging trees in Stanley Park in Vancouver. There I was, standing in the middle of the street, hands full of groceries, laughing at the sky – so moved by seeing what has always been in the sky but never in my view before now!
All of this awakened in me my deep reverence for nature and the Universe and reminded me of how long it’s been since I lived somewhere with four distinct seasons – so defined and individually beautiful. I long for a changing climate where deciduous green trees of summer show off their vibrant colors in autumn and fade into the chill of winter, only to be reborn in spring. I long for babbling creeks, daffodils of spring, maple syrup and apple cider of fall, and all the other magic of Penn’s Woods.
On this world journey, as I visited many temples, mosques, churches, and other religious sites, the things that filled me with the most awe were the wonders of nature – especially waterways. Although I am not moving to Pennsylvania, which has more rivers and creeks than anywhere else in the continental United States, I will be a mere two hours away exploring the Potomac on my new kayak.
I am so filled with joy that I was able to take this incredible trip around the world. I met amazing people, experienced new cultures, saw so many wonders of nature, and even overcame some fears. I am equally as excited to return home to the mid-Atlantic.
The best thing about being a wanderer, or at times being consumed by wanderlust, is the stories you collect. In addition to collecting my own stories, I like to hear about other people’s adventures.
I had a 7 hour delay at the Kathmandu airport – which worked out well because I wound up on a direct flight to Bangkok on the very posh Thai Airways flight that would have cost me $900 if I booked it directly.
While sitting there at the airport, I met a really cool chick from the U.S. who just spent a month hiking in the Himalayas. What a story! In addition to telling me about treacherous, life threatening pathways, being soaking wet in the frigid great outdoors, and appearing in newspapers after a theft at the campsite, she also told me about leeches. She showed me her battle scars and described the leeches as if they were featured in a horror flick. Continue reading