Every so often – whether during an interview or during casual conversation – someone asks me how many countries I’ve been to. I attribute the query to curiosity, of course, but also to the significant number of social media peeps that are actually keeping track. #notme
The truth is that I don’t know; I have never counted. It probably isn’t even that many. Call me oppositional if you’d like, but since I tend to be the type to look ahead, I tend to be more focused on the places I want to go than the places I’ve been. #IJS
But in order to prepare for tax time every year (my least favorite annual exercise in stress), I am forced to tally up my travel expenses and take a nice little jaunt down memory lane. Not one to maintain a calendar with any consistency (I know, I know), I sometimes have to scroll through my Facebook Wall for reminders that I have turned my life over to travel, all for business, philanthropy and pleasure. And no, I am not complaining.
I am in Paris right now (for pleasure and a little business), have been here many times, and plan to come back many more. But there are tons of places in the City of Light (or France, for that matter) I have never seen before which means that every time I return, I make it a point to go out there and get lost to get found. So for me, the Dalai Lama’s challenge isn’t so much about not returning to a place you love, but about seeking out the new once you go back. And no, you don’t have to use your passport (you have one, right?) or hop a plane either. The city next door, the one you’ve taken for granted and have been promising to get to, will work just fine. And then there’s this really cool idea about becoming a tourist in your own hometown…
In 2013, I went many places, but to at least four international destinations (but who’s counting?) I had never visited: A little over three weeks in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil (more here) because I have always wanted to go to Brazil; 10 days in Anguilla, a unique British overseas territory in the northern Caribbean, as press for the Anguilla Literary Festival: A Literary Jollification and a little R&R; and 7 days respectively in Central America’s Belize and Costa Rica, both with respect to The Passport Party Project. (I also used my Epcot passport and had my first (amazing!) Florida Walt Disney World experience at Disney Dreamer’s Academy. And true to form, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to Disneyland in California either.)
So here’s the challenge: Give it a shot. Do the Dalai Lama-thing and pick a place you’ve never been before, no matter where it is, and go. Go for a day, a week or a month. Shoot, become an expatriate and then re-patriate if you please. But just revel in The New and inhale. It might make you feel a little awkward at first, but in the end, it’ll make you feel brand new. I promise. (And don’t forget to send yourself a postcard. My husband and I do it every trip.)