My mother likes to tell me I’m well-traveled, in the way only a mother can: with a bit of admiration, wonder, and pride combined with a heavy dose of “You-should-be-grateful-do-you-know-how-lucky-you-are-I-didn’t-travel-nearly-as-much-when-I-was-your-age-are-you-sure-you-can-afford-all-those-trips?” guilt. Once I started reading others’ blogs, though, I knew my travel range and frequency couldn’t hold a candle to many people’s. But still, I figured I was decently traveled for someone with a full-time job, a mortgage, a spouse and a pet, and sundry non-travel-related hobbies and interests. And also – and this can’t be discounted – for someone stuck in the Midwest, for whom jaunts across the ocean are not as affordable, direct, or swift as they are for someone stationed in, say, New York or L.A.
Recently, I read a blogger’s post about her goal of reaching 30 countries by age 30. It made me wonder how many countries I’ve been to. It’s not that I haven’t counted before. I have. It’s just that it’s been a good long time. So I made a list, checked it twice, and counted up the countries. 16. What? Only 16 countries (including my own!)? That’s, like, only 8%!
For a brief moment, I felt inadequate, like I didn’t measure up. I mean, I’ve just set myself up as a travel blogger, for crying out loud. But I quickly realized the problem, if you can call it that. As a teacher, I am constantly struggling to find the right balance between breadth and depth in my subject matter. In other words, do I cover a greater number of topics in a less thorough, more surface way, or do I cover fewer subjects in greater detail? (You’d be amazed at how deep you can go with, say, adjectives, even at the upper elementary level.) This ends up being an apt metaphor for travel, as well.
The thing about my travel history is that it’s a mix of both. Like most people, I love to see new places. It’s just that sometimes those new places happen to be in a country I’ve already visited. An even more extreme example of “depth” is when I return to the exact same place for pretty much the exact same experience (think favorite resort in Jamaica). These things don’t help my “country count” much, but they’ve never detracted from my enjoyment of whatever place I was in.
The breadth versus depth question applies to my travels here in the U.S., too, because I can’t seem to stop traveling out west. I pine, literally pine for Colorado when I’m not there. Southern Utah is starting to become a major object of my affection, too. I mean, my God, the scenic drives alone…
So anyway, I thought I’d use my blog as a place to list and detail the depth and breadth of my travels in and around the two – that’s right, only two – continents I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. That makes five continents I haven’t visited.
USA: I could list all the states I’ve set foot in, but I think that misses the point. A map gives a better idea of my American travels. Solid colored states are places I intended to go to, to see, and to explore (or, in a few cases, that I’ve lived in). Striped states, on the other hand, I’ve been to, but not as a destination. Most likely I was just passing through on my way somewhere else. For those states I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than once, the red number indicates the frequency.
Canada: Montreal, Quebec City, Banff-Lake Louise region
Jamaica – 5 times – twice as a young child and three times to the aforementioned resort where I go to experience the welcoming, laid-back vibe and revel in the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” feeling it provides. Though getting there has sometimes been fraught with stress and difficulty, I never regret returning.
England – 6 times
France – 4 times
Belgium – 3 times, including a one-month student exchange
Germany – 2 times
The rest have been, so far, single-visit countries:
Or, seen another way:
So do I lament that returning to some places over and over has prevented me from seeing other parts of the U.S. and the world? Sometimes. But actually, I think, I’ve stumbled upon a nice mix of depth and breadth that works for the husband and me. England, where all of my in-laws live, will always be a “depth” country for me. I don’t mind. Even after this summer’s visit, I have a rough outline of our next two trips there sketched out in my mind… and I’m excited about that! Same with France. Brittany, Normandy, Bordeaux… I’m coming for you. It may take me several years, and two or three separate trips, but I’m coming!
A quick peek at our upcoming travel plans reveals a continuation, however unintended, of the breadth + depth travel equation… a satisfying mix of new hits and old favorites. Heck, even our Dust-Farm-Pail List contains some new experiences embedded in retreads.
But what about growing my country count, you ask? Well, I think I view it the same way I view getting blog followers. More is always nice, always welcome, and I feel confident that growth will continue. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited watching the numbers tick upward, be they on my blog or on my travel tally, but it’s not the primary motivation for what I do. The primary motivation is the fulfillment I get while I’m doing “it”, whether “it” means traveling, writing, or pretty much anything else, and that’s all the validation I need.
Addendum: I’ve pondered how to update this blog since I wrote it. Making those maps was kind of a lot of work, so instead of redoing them each time I travel, I thought I’d use this space to update where I’ve been since: