I’m on a conference call with people I have never met, never worked with. I’m supposed to be just helping out on a project, but the call takes an unexpected turn. The person who is supposed to lead the project says she can’t do it. Too busy. Too many other commitments.
There’s a brief silence. I consider volunteering, but I’m the new kid on this team and figure that would be presumptuous. I wait to see what happens.
“Do you have a passport?” asks a disembodied voice in another state.
“Yes,” I say.
“Can you go to Georgia?” The voice asks.
“Sure,” I respond, trying to sound calm and professional, instead of squealing “YIPPPEEEE!!!! Sign me up!”
Simultaneously, I am Googling Georgia. Because, to be honest, I know precisely three things about Georgia: That it exists, that its capital is Tbilisi, and that it was formerly a part of the USSR. My college Russian professor had tested our class once–we had to memorize the names of all the states of the USSR and their capitals, and label them correctly (in Cyrillic) on a map. It had been so long since that exercise, though, I couldn’t remember where Georgia was. North of the Black Sea? Somewhere over by Kazakhstan? Not entirely sure. Nevertheless, sign me up.
This odd convergence of events sums up much of the traveling I’ve done. It’s been mostly planless and circumstantial. Odd destinations and a bit of chance.
In high school, we had a German exchange student. Just hearing the words “exchange student” thrilled me to no end. How exciting! How glamorous! I want to go!
So, I apply to be an exchange student, and they ask me where I want to go. I say “France!” Definitely France. My heart is set on France.
The exchange program says no because I’ve never taken a French class (I dearly wanted to, but my high school only offered Spanish). They offer me Spain, England, and Australia. I didn’t know anything about Australia, except for the usual cliche images of kangaroos and koalas. But it sounded the most unusual, the most unknown, the most exotic, the farthest away I could possibly go. So, of course, that’s what I picked. (Some days I think about how great my Spanish would have been had I picked Spain, but because I’d been forced to take Spanish in high school it had no appeal at the time. And England? Dull, foggy, England? No, thank you. My 15-year-old self rejected it out of hand.)
I still have never learned French. The whole France thing niggled me for years. Not having been there seemed so…provincial, so poorly traveled. I mean, what kind of half-assed traveler has Never Set Foot in France? I finally did get there, 17 years later, but that’s for a different post.
That pretty much sums up how I travel, though: Don’t know much about it? It’s far away? Random project/assignment/research? No one else will go?
Sign me up.