It’s funny how a place that you’ve called home your whole life can suddenly feel like a foreign land. I’ve been back in the States for about three months, after being gone for just under a year, which isn’t very long, and yet I often feel a bit like a stranger to this place now. Not that I don’t still love it, despite its flaws, but I certainly don’t go as far to tout the whole “greatest country on earth” mantra that so many seem to spout as though a subjective opinion can ever be fact. There is no such thing to me as a “greatest country”, as I find such mindsets to be on the slippery slope of divisiveness, and we certainly don’t need more of that right now. I’ve visited over a dozen countries this last year and all of them had something about them that made them great.
It really is a shame to me that more of our citizens don’t travel more, especially the young ones that are forming their views as they bridge the gap from their teen years to adulthood. Our geographic location on a map has a lot to do with it — it’s not like growing up in other places on the globe where it’s just easier and cheaper to travel to other countries. And I include myself in this — I didn’t travel beyond North America before last year, well into my 40s. Thankfully, I was raised with a sense of global awareness and a curiousity that plummeted me into the pages of National Geographic and shows on PBS and the like. I remember hating that we had to watch 60 Minutes every Sunday night when I was growing up, and now I’m grateful for it — it gave me some perspective that I might not otherwise have given where I grew up, just one of many suburbs in a relatively small city with next to no diversity in culture. So while I wasn’t raised with the means for travel, we found ways to bring the world to us, so to speak. That was the foundation for what would develop into no only “tolerance” of diversity, but more importantly, an adoration of it. I honestly revel in it — different languages, customs, food, music — all of it.
And so here we are, in a complex time, certainly not moreso than compared to our complex history as a nation, and all of it is compounding this whole feeling of being a bit of a stranger in my own country. I saw such unity among people during my travels. Not everywhere, of course, and there were certainly many places that had long histories of civil unrest between groups of people, but overall things felt more progressive and unified. Our country is such a melting pot of so many different types of people and cultures, and despite all the divisiveness that continues to plaugue us, I do see progress and I do still have hope that it will continue to improve in my lifetime. And that excites me. I’m not one who thinks it’s a matter of “not having a choice but to accept it”, but rather that we should run toward it and be grateful for the gifts that it brings.
But I tell ya, I would get on a plane tomorrow, jetting off to some foreign land, giddy as the wheels touched down on the runway, anticipating the adventure that awaits. There are still so many places that I want to go, and at the top of that list is to spend more time in Africa. There just are no words to adequately describe its completely intoxicating glory. It’s the heartbeat of the planet, the birthplace of humankind, the memory of tomorrow.
I’ll be in Southern California through the end of the year, and then I hit the road on New Years Day to drive back up the Pacific coast to Seattle, with one-day stops along the way, including Santa Barbara, Monterey, Oakland, Mendocino, Brookings, and Cannon Beach, arriving in Seattle on January 8th and staying there for a couple months. I’m still planning to spend some time with one or more animal sanctuaries in the U.S., and have been researching several, so I’m excited about that. In the meantime, pet sitting has been a great way to live on the cheap, since I’m getting accomodations in exchange, while doing something I love — a bit of travel while having animal time — double win.
See all you PNW birds soon.