One of my daughters asked me the other day where I would live if I could live anywhere I wanted to. I had a hard time answering that question. I haven’t been to all that many places and I almost always find something to love in every one of them.
If I could live anywhere, regardless of cost or opportunity, it wouldn’t be in the United States. I love the States and I’m proud to be an American, but I would love to live in Europe, preferably in Germany where I sort of know the language and have in-laws. The problem with living in Europe is that I’d be so far away from my children and grandchild. Ideally I would live in Germany half the year and the States the other half. And when I was in Germany, they could always come and visit. (Remember, I said regardless of cost.)
I was in Germany when 9/11 occurred and the sympathy and outrage the German people expressed was moving. It made me realize that we’re all in this together on this planet. If I’d been in the States when it happened I think I would have experienced it much differently. More parochially.
I loved being in Europe because it’s so communal. Whether they like it or not, all these countries are within hours of each other. In the time it would take to drive from the East coast to the West coast in the U.S., you could travel all around Europe and still have time left over. That’s an exciting concept. I still remember how thrilling it was to me as a child whenever we visited Canada. The differences were obvious as soon as we crossed the border, let alone when we drove 300 miles north of Toronto. Even something as small as the lack of trash blowing around the streets and highways made me realize that we were in a different land.
I don’t necessarily have to move somewhere to add it to my life experience. Once I’ve traveled to a place, and particularly if I spend some time there, I can imagine living there even if I never go there again. That’s why travel is so important. The next most important activity you can engage in is reading. Not your average travelogue, but a novel perhaps. For example, I once read a novel set in Papua New Guinea (I wish I could remember the name) and now I feel like I’ve been there more than I think I would if I’d just watched a video. Being put in the place of the narrator will do that for–and to–you. A couple years later I chose Papua New Guinea as a country to study in an agricultural economics course and found that many of my assumptions about life there were true. It was a rewarding experience.
So until I have enough money to travel more, I’ll keep on reading. And imagining.