LONDON -- I was amazed the other day while talking to one of my flatmates, Greg, a native Londoner. I had just told him about my coming weekend trip to Northern Ireland and the conversation turned to the topic of travel in general.
Greg laughed at the fact I was visiting Ireland after only three weeks in England, while he has never been there, despite living in the United Kingdom his whole life.
For a few moments I felt sorry for him, thinking about how sad it was that he had never gotten a chance to see a place so close to his home. And then he continued talking and all my pity completely vanished. Greg began listing all of the dozens of countries and cities he had been to, and I sat there in awe. I have met Americans who have traveled a lot, and their lists certainly impress me as well, but it was Greg's casual attitude which struck me most. Toward the end of our conversation he nonchalantly mentioned he intended to travel to somewhere in Northern African sometime later this year.
Northern Africa. As if it were the grocery store two blocks away.
I had learned from my second grade geography class that all of the countries in Europe are relatively close to each other, especially compared to the United States. But I never understood until my talk with Greg how much that fact affects the way Europeans consider travel.
It is wonderful that Americans can visit many states and see many different towns and terrains with a relative ease, but for Europeans, it is countries and cultures that are within their immediate grasp. The distance between London and Morocco is roughly equivalent to the distance between Richmond and Dallas, but the differences between the pairs don't even compare. It is no longer a mystery to me why the Europeans I meet seem so much more cultured than I am ... because in many ways they are.
I love the diversity among the states, but I am saddened by how limited our realm is. A trip to Morocco would require extensive planning and $1,488 for me; for Greg it means easyjet.com and #130.
When I look at a map now, I see places such as Poland, Italy, Russia and Egypt, and I can realistically visualize myself there. The world looks a lot smaller from this side of the pond, and it's a view I am glad to have.
Contact writer Jill Cavaliere at firstname.lastname@example.org
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