“Where have you been so far?” is a conversation starter out here, in this military-based expat community. Traveling is something that people simply do, and do rather fearlessly.
You see, most of the Americans that live here fight a ticking clock from the moment they step off the plane. The majority live here for three years before being transferred to their next duty station–which, most likely is back in the United States.
So, there is an almost manic, frenzied need to see Europe. The naval base empties during long weekends, such as this one, and Americans flock to Portugal, Ireland, or the Greek Isles. They see, and they do, and they eat, and they drive.
And they yearn for more.
My husband and I struggle, in the most first-world, guilty way possible.
I mean, really. We struggle over which beautiful part of Europe to experience next?
But, when you factor in school, and money, and time, we have the budget for two big trips a year. Since we are see-a-little-well, as opposed to see-a-lot-quickly, kind of travelers, we have to make some hard choices.
Will we see the tulips in Holland, or heist a stein in Munich? Ski in Granada or snorkel in the Canary Islands? Will we tour Big Ben or ride a gondola in Venice?
My initial answer is yes. Yes, we will do all of them. We will run up our credit card, and pull the boys out of school, and do it all.
But I’m far too German and Lutheran to do that.
And so, we plan our trips, and we understand that we will never see enough. There will always be places yet unexplored, and locations that make little nests in our dreams.
It’s the other side of travel…..the yearning, the thousand little deaths it brings. I went to Hong Kong in 1997, and I can still close my eyes, and see the mist clinging to the bamboo forests, and the women doing tai chi in the clearing. Their arms, extended and pure, seeking, yet complete.
I know that I will probably never go there again. And I hold the memory, and mourn it. As I did as we left Rome. As I will when we leave Sweden, or Scotland, or Paris, or Prague.
Each place unfurls a new sense of wonder, And every place changes you.
And so, when we look at a map, and examine our bank statements, it’s more than choosing a vacation. It’s choosing who else we want to be. What will we dream about when we close our eyes? What meals will we savor, recreating in our minds? What sounds will make us gasp, and dream, and laugh out loud?
Our hearts and minds wait to be unlocked, one journey at a time.