In recent weeks, I have had new language students from Switzerland and Brazil, in addition to those from Japan and Germany, and this is only serving to kick up my desire to do some serious travelling. But in our current constrained economic state there seems no possibility of that, so I simply have to listen wistfully as my pupils wax rhapsodically about their respective homelands. I’m going to try looking into some kind of teach-abroad-gig thing, although I don’t think, with my current writing project, I can commit to anything more than a month or six weeks.
But the idea of living in another country is powerfully appealing right now, and not just because of the mess in Washington, DC. At this stage in my late-middle-age life, I realize there is not much time left to see as much of the world as I would like. I’m resigned to probably never making that journey to Antarctica (I know, it’s absurd, but for some reason I’ve always I want to see it, walk among the penguins) Don’t think I’m going to make it to Madagascar or Kenya to see amazing animals and flora on their home turf. I’ve been watching snippets of the Trans-Siberian Railway trip online (where the outskirts of Moscow look surprisingly like NYC, complete with ‘Co-op City’ type towers in the background) because I don’t think I can pull that one off, either.
I would like to get back to Europe at least one more time before I die, and maybe half a dozen times if possible. I would like to return to my grandfather’s island in Denmark again, where I spent a blissful summer many years ago just after graduating college, and renew old ties with my many cousins there. I’ve been to Denmark and Germany, Austria and Italy and Ireland, but now want to see all the rest of the countries, particularly Poland and western Russia where a big chunk of my DNA is from: Big blue lines on my chromosomal chart, with that glowing dot of Ashkenazi right in the middle.
I envied my daughter’s daring visit a few years ago to Israel, via Moscow to Tel Aviv. I would do it! I dream of a RTW trip that would take me to at least four continents. I’ve even planned it out, on paper, tacked to my bulletin board: I’d go west, first flying south to see the Galapagos and Easter Island (and maybe my new student’s homeland of Brazil, now that I’ve heard how wonderful it is) then skipping over to Fiji, New Zealand, Australia (a train across the interior from Sydney to Perth), then up to Singapore; Maldives, Reunion and Cape Town, then north to Napoleon’s Saint Helena (Yeah, I know, another one of those crazy places I need to see); Cape Verde and Senegal (I have nieces with DNA from that area), Morocco and Gibraltar and Spain and Portugal, and if I’m not too tired, I’d hit the Azores on the way home. It does make me a little exhausted, just typing all that. Still wanna do it.
But this year it is simply more Western New York state and Kentucky/Tennessee for me, which, while enticing in their own way, leave me yearning for more.
There is something immensely satisfying about getting to a spot you’ve only read about or dreamed of. For many years, I had this yearning to drive all the way to the very tip of Cape Breton Island, which is about as far north-east as you can drive without taking a ferry. I checked it out, learning that last road north is gravel and steep and recommended only for all-terrain vehicles. A few summers ago we actually did it, my husband and I, and it was just as amazing and astonishing and wonderful as I’d hoped. And yeah, we broke the car doing it, the old Chevy (it clattered and clanged all the way back down the Cape Breton highway), but it was somehow worth it. And then there was the marvelous one-lane mountain road we took on Maui, the one that voided our rental car agreement. But still worth it, for views that most people will never get to see.
I suppose hidden in my DNA is some kind of explorer’s or discoverer’s gene, maybe the consequence of being descended from Greenland whalers and Genghis Khan’s sons. But for now, I have to be the armchair traveler for a while, or classroom traveler, experiencing the world through my beloved students, and that’s okay, too. For now…