The old saying states that travelling makes the world feel smaller.
That makes sense. Travel shows us that we are not so different after all and highlights how connected we are. But travel also makes the world feel bigger. Exponentially.
The more you see, the more you realize there is to see.
Before I left Canada for the first time, I had a vague idea of the rest of the world only in a theoretical sense. I had read National Geographic and looked at Atlases, but other countries were just a concept to me. They weren’t real in my head just yet.
Travel makes real the things you have only read or heard about second hand.
I could have read a thousand books about India and I would have had an intellectual concept of it. But now I have smelled the hot stench of the streets of Delhi. I have listened to the loud jangle of the music and admired the way the sun makes the marble of the Taj Mahal glow. India is real to me now, in taste, sight, sound, feel and smell.
So, as I travel I move slowly throughout the world, illuminating parts of it in my understanding. The map lights up like a switchboard, each country making more sense to me as I encounter it first-hand.
Like zooming in on Google Maps, each destination expands in complexity as soon as the plane descends towards the soil. The closer you get to a country, the more the tiny spots on the map start to become visible. You start to realize that you could explore this small section of the world for years and still not see it all.
Before I traveled to Peru, I had a vague idea of what Peru was. I had images of llamas and Machu Picchu and colourful traditional clothes. This was just the beginning of an understanding. When I got on the ground, I learned so much more.
I visited towns like Arequipa and Ollantaytambo, places I had never heard of before. I took long bus rides where I came to understand the landscapes and how the terrain fit together. Peru was once a simplified concept in my head. Now it is a more detailed rendering, complete with details such as the sweet taste of Inca Cola on a dusty roadside and the smell of grilled guinea pig.
This effect of a destination expanding in your mind as you soak in more details, it never seems to stop. During four months in Melbourne, Australia every pub and café I visited made the city grow bigger in my mind. With every walk, I discovered new parks and trails. The idea of “Melbourne” expanded further and further in my mind as I filled more details. It’s now more than just a dot on a map for me, it’s a huge world where I immersed myself for a while and made many memories.
The more you travel, the more you want to see.
You’ll go to Cambodia and meet a German, who tells you about their lovely hometown in Bavaria. You’ll put it on the list. While you are in Germany you will meet a Brit, who waxes poetic about their time in the Algarve region of Portugal. You’ll put it on the list.
It’s no use – because when you go there you will learn about somewhere else that you must see. There’s always something more to discover, just around the next bend. I urge you to see what happens when you push beyond the edges of the map in your head and start to feel the world expand. It’s dizzying and exciting to feel it stretching out in all directions around you.
So, the world just keeps getting bigger. It’s like an ever-expanding smorgasbord. You keep eating but you keep noticing new dishes being added to the edges of the table.
I know with certainty that I will never finish it all.
The world is infinite. Even if one day I am the strange 80-year-old lady in the hostel, I will still die with many places left unseen.
How can I check off every item on my bucket list? With each one I complete; I end up finding five more that I want to add. How can you see all of something that keeps growing and changing at such a rate? You can’t, it’s impossible.
But damn it, I’m going to try my very best.