If the travel bug is genetic I was doomed from birth.
Last night, I had dinner with my grandparents. I asked my Grandfather: what is your favorite country that you have traveled to?
His reply surprised me.
He said that he doesn’t have favorites, but he has been thinking about where he was most effective.
Botswana, He said. He is proud of his work there, instigating a drought plan. He also found Ethiopia an interesting country to live in. He believes that his mission, with the World Bank, to Sudan was important.
We compared notes on how many countries we have been to. He maintains that it doesn’t count unless you have lived there for three months. By this count, he has twelve. This includes the time that he moved his young family to Iran; He worked in Afghanistan in the 70s; He and my grandmother lived in Pakistan when I was a baby.
Our dinner was the last time I would see them before I left for overseas. I had to tell them that I wasn’t sure when I would be back. I said goodbye and goodnight, and walked home along the beach, finding my way through the rainforest to bed.
Along the way I decided that I wanted to be like my Grandfather. I want to quantify my travels by the places that I really get to know: taking the time to understand the culture, history and people.
I am going to stop placing pins in a globe and start noticing the times when I stretch my worldview. I hope that my globe expands. I want to follow a calling rather than a checklist.
Instead of picking favourites, I hope that one day – when I dream in the past tense – I can ask myself, ‘where was I most effective?’