passport and map

Happy wandering

September 2, 2022

   Last week I mailed my old passport back as part of my renewal application. For the next two or three months I can’t leave the country if I wanted to. This is different from Covid. Then, travel wasn’t available; now it is but I can’t go anywhere. It doesn’t matter that we hadn’t planned any trips before November. For the next couple of months I am essentially persona non grata to the entire rest of the world. No country will have me, including my own should I somehow find myself outside our borders and trying to get back in. I’m trying to figure out what difference, if any, this makes.

I realize that whenever I see a baby stroller in a park, museum or parked next to a table in a café. Love and cheerfulness are universal, and, reflectively, how vital choice is in producing both.

   For the last ten years I was free to imagine traveling at any time I chose. Even during Covid I could still consider a trip depending on whenever restrictions were lifted. This is different. If a Nigerian prince were to invite me and Carol to his villa in the French Riviera next week, I’d have to say no. (I think even with my passport in hand, I’d still say no. I mean, come on. I’m still waiting for that $10,000 check to clear from the last Nigerian I’d been contacted by.)

   The best approach to this hiatus is to imagine that it’s illness or infirmity that is preventing travel. In other words, what if I could never travel again? That’s very different from simply being unable to plan a trip. There’s a lot that can go wrong in traveling, starting with flight cancellations, to having your credit card company lock your card and ending with illness or injury. (Break a leg and you can’t fly home.) 

   One way I’ve noticed that travel changes you is that it’s harder to think narrowly once you’ve been to places where people live differently from you. What you eventually learn is that what looks foreign and strange isn’t so much so once you realize we’re all expressing the same values and hopes at the core of our behavior. I realize that whenever I see a baby stroller in a park, museum or parked next to a table in a café. Love and cheerfulness are universal, and, reflectively, how vital choice is in producing both.

   Ironically, when you see locals in other lands living happy, contented lives just being where they are, it means you don’t have to travel to be happy. Yet, that’s what you learn by traveling. It’s kind of a happy paradox.

   Mostly I remember the little kids and babies I’ve seen and interacted with briefly when I’ve traveled, alone and with Carol. They’re all happy and that keeps me that way.

   As I sit out these two or three months when I can’t travel even if I wanted to, I’ll be reminding myself how much good it does me to get up off the couch and get out of town. It’s not for the cathedrals, museums and chateaux that I’ll be chomping to see again. Just a friendly smile from a two-year-old or so, who will wave to me and realize he or she can already speak their language better than me.

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