I haven’t been everywhere, but I’ve been more places than most people I’ve met. Anyone who’s traveled to more than 10 countries has probably heard some variation of the question: What’s your favorite country? What’s your favorite place you’ve been to?
When I reached 10 countries, my answer was Egypt. When I reached 20 countries, my answer was Cambodia. When I reached 30 countries, I had a different answer every time, somehow no longer having a country that stuck out above the rest. Now 40 countries and God knows how many cities later, the answer’s easy: Baltimore, United States of America. Obviously. For some reason I keep coming back at the end of every trip. I have the freedom to travel anywhere in the world I want, I can even move to 70 other cities in the US and keep the same exact job if I want, yet I’m still here. And most of us (whether actively or passively) choose to stay where we are as well.
We call it travel for a reason. And we call home, home for a reason. We know home. We know the language, we know our neighbors, we know how to call someone a douchebag when they cut us off in traffic.
The measure of a favorite country isn’t the number of tourist attractions or the number of positive reviews on Trip Advisor or lonelyplanet.com. It’s the number of family members living there, the number of favorite cable TV channels available, the number of potentially favorite restaurants and favorite pool halls, the number of available job opportunities and the number of people who would make you feel at home. It’s the answer to the question: Would I want to make a home here? Would I rather be here than there for the rest of my life?
How many people have moved from Senegal to a place like Germany to find work, only to spend the rest of their lives longing to eat mom’s homemade thiebou djeun, to cheer the Terenga Lions national soccer team, to speak their native Senegalese language to everyone in the streets, to walk along the most familiarly unpaved trash-covered road, to feel at home and not spend the rest of their lives looked down upon as a foreigner in the country where they live?
There are those who travel, stay and never look back. There are those who come from the US and fall in love with a place like Guatemala (who could blame them?), learn the language, learn the culture, and learn to feel at home. There are those who travel to the US from a place like Pakistan, find opportunity, kindness, and a place where being a foreigner actually makes you one of the locals.
If you’re not happy where you are now, perhaps you aren’t really home yet. And if you are, congratulations. Being able to travel the world is an amazing opportunity. But you don’t have to travel to 40-plus countries if you’re already spending every day in your personal favorite place on earth—just as long as you’re aware it’s not the only place on earth.
For those who can travel but don’t, I made this blog hoping to help people appreciate travel and other parts of the world. For those who want to travel but can’t, I made this post hoping to help people appreciate their own part of the world as well—the starting and ending point of every journey: home.