I find myself struggling. The stress of the ongoing pandemic, and the knowledge that until everyone in the household gets completely vaccinated I am not going anywhere (we agreed on this as a family), gets to me. Having a relatively healthy twenty-something in the household means that won’t be until May, probably. (As for me, thankfully, I have snagged an appointment for my first shot for tomorrow. Hurrah! I will be getting the Pfizer vaccine, as though I cared.) Having gone well over a year since my last hair styling, I will endure at least a couple of months more looking like the most disreputable of Macbeth’s witches.
In order to look past all that upsets me right now, I decided to following the lead of a college Facebook group and list the places that I have been by letter. Turns out I have traveled more extensively than I thought I have.
My travels have taken me to places that cover every letter of the alphabet except X. (Unless X marks the spot. Or a lot of spots.) My most recent acquisition, Quito, where I stayed overnight (and saw a performance of the Ballet Folklorico) a year and 793 days ago, covers “Q.” The list encompasses Alabama and the Alhambra to Zion National Park, and includes cities in twenty-one countries on five continents, and all the states except Alaska, the Dakotas, and Idaho. (I am a little hesitant about Africa, because all I have seen of Africa is Tangiers. A day trip to Morocco doesn’t seem like it should count, somehow, but I included Tangiers anyway. The Rocket Scientist had a conference in Capetown which was supposed to have happened last May, but which is now going to be held over Zoom instead. Damn pandemic.) The only continents I am missing are Asia (which, given that the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy lives in South Korea and is likely to remain there, I should see sometime) and Antarctica (where I am never likely to set foot, not that I care that much).
I have seen the sun set over Tuscan hills. I have stood on a cold winter’s day experiencing the magic of Stonehenge. I have driven in Paris (and Madrid – Spanish drivers are if anything worse than French drivers). I have gawked at the splendor of the tsar’s quarters in the Hermitage and the stunning grandeur of Versailles. I have looked at Picasso’s Guernica with tears in my eyes. I have walked on Omaha Beach on the Fourth of July, reflecting somberly on the sacrifice of the men who crawled up on that shore on D-Day. I have giggled over baby tortoises, after viewing their huge elderly relatives. I have beheld in wonder the geysers in Yellowstone, the stunning waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, and the majesty of the Grand Canyon.
It’s a humbling list. My parents never traveled across country until I had my first child and they were in their sixties. My brothers have never traveled west of Texas. One of my sisters lives in Alaska, but beyond that has seen little of the country outside the South. My eldest sister has traveled in Europe, but not as extensively as I have.
I have been so many places, and done so many things, that it takes my breath away when I actually contemplate it. I have been unbelievably fortunate to have a husband who is forced to travel so much for work, and to have the wherewithal to accompany him. Sometimes we have gone without other things so I could go along, and I am more grateful than I can say. We traveled with the kids as well: giving them experiences of other places was more important to us than getting them the latest toy or game.
I have so many blessings in my life – from my family to the roof over my head to the food that I eat without worrying how we are going to pay for it – and traveling may be the least of them. But when I have trouble remembering the good in life, it oddly helps to think about how big the world is, and how small my place in it is.
There’s a whole big world out there, and I have been blessed enough to see quite a lot of it.