I decided five years ago that I had not seen enough of the world. So I set a goal: See 20 countries.
Now, I am seeing the world through the eyes of people like me in cities that once were just dots on a map: Dakar, Senegal; Migori, Kenya; Johannesburg, South Africa; Capetown, South Africa; Queenstown, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia. These visits came after fellowship trips to the beautiful cities of Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Rome and Turin, Italy. And those visits came after long ago, initial, close-to-home trips to Toronto, Cancun, Acapulco, which all opened my eyes to the truth:
The world is so small.
I was amazed by how comfortable I was, how easily I traveled. I stood next to buildings I’d dreamed of seeing, such as the Sydney Opera House, thousands of miles from home. And it felt so right, exciting, but like I was supposed to be there.
So on I go to two new countries: Myanmar and Thailand, which a New York times In Transit piece just mentioned yesterday, a week after I planned my trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Thailand. Psychic? Read about them here.
While business takes me there, pleasure will keep me going back. And as much as I love Thai food cooked in America, I cannot wait to see and taste its origins.
I also am continuing to see all of America. I have visited 33 states. I pin my travels on two large maps of the world and the U.S. I used to keep the global map in my office in the newsroom. My editor would occasionally come by and point to the wide swath of the U.S. that I have skipped: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas. “You missed a spot,” he’d say. And we’d both laugh.
With only 17 states to go, I’ve decided that, occasionally, I will drive. I understand, for the first time, why the family trips were by car, past places on the way to places. I’m the kind of person who would take the detour to see the world’s largest ball of string.
The journeys mean so much now.
And when I return, I’ll plan my next trip to another state, one of the 17 that await my arrival. Excuse me if it’s Hawaii.
I have plenty of time to see New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. (Had I been a political reporter, I’d have been there a dozen times by now, but I was too young to catch: the homespun significance of the 1949 primary when Eisenhower beat Taft and Estes Kefauver beat President Harry S Truman; and the 1968 primary when Sen. Eugene McCarthy asked Jesus whether He was running with him. I was too busy not covering politics to write about the 1992 primary when President Bill Clinton become the first incumbent to not win New Hampshire, but won a second term anyway.
I’ve got time to see Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. I have a friend, a UNC classmate in Providence, whom I’m sure would show me around “The Ocean State.”
Montana will still be there. So will Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas. And Mount Rushmore isn’t going anywhere.
ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer whose essays here are about her personal thoughts and adventures. No reprints without permission.
You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.