Back in the day, I had a nice list of trips I wanted to take- Australia/New Zealand, France/Spain, Turkey/Morocco, Arizona/New Mexico, Bike Trip through Central/South America, Perimeter of North America- you get the idea. I was not, like a few of my classmates at university, planning on taking a year off to travel around the world. I was always too practical for that. But, I did have a bunch of places I hoped to hit sometime in my youth. Needless to say, I have not taken any of those trips, but have instead found myself unexpectedly in other places. While there is always something to learn from any place you travel to, the fact that my list of To Do destinations was taking a backseat to places I had to travel to was always in the back of my mind.
As the years have passed, I have come to accept that I will probably never make even one of the trips I once dreamed of making. The ability to just take off to some far-flung dot on the map dissipates as you get older, if for no other reason than you are trying to create a home for yourself; why spend money going to Europe when you need furniture, clothing, etc.? Moreover, as you age, the need to travel dulls. You have already encountered people from different countries, had life experiences that you would have had by travelling simply by living your life.
Then tonight, it occurred to me that advancements in technology further negate in person travel. I went to a clothing website where they had a set of films showing young, hip women in their local city showing you the sites. I consequently visited London, Rome, and Australia. Guess I can cross those places off my list! But, all joking aside, in this day and age you can, with the click of a mouse, take virtual tours of different countries, watch movies set in places across the globe, hear music from different cultures, read articles by cultural theorists and sociologists. You can even visit the 7 wonders of the world in less than 5 minutes- unless your internet connection is faster than mine or you want to spend longer at each, that is.
While certainly a virtual world does not equal going to a country and taking in the culture, the sights and smells, the people, the world has indeed gotten smaller. And, concurrently, my world has gotten bigger as I have gotten older. The more life experience I have garnered, the more I have learned, the more my personal refinement has grown, has directly impact the growth of my world. So now, when I take a virtual visit to Peru, for example, my experience of that visit is different than it would have been when I was 17. Yes, I would have learned some of the same information as I would have back then, but the overall lessons learned now would be palpably different than if I was still 17.
All that said, I do still hope to take at least one of my dream trips someday. Until then, I am most thankful to live in this modern age when I can travel virtually to any part of the globe I choose. There is so much beauty in Hashem's world, and sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives, we tend to miss it. A trip, even a virtual one, is a way to appreciate that beauty, not only while we are away, but once we come home. While coming home is sometimes anti-climatic, the sweetness of home is appreciated more by absence therefrom. So, until I am up to scratching off one of those trips on my To Do list, I may just take an hour trip to Venice or Bogota in order to revel in the amazing splendour available there- and right under my nose.