Do Cruise Ship Stops Count?

Sometimes when people find out that I like to travel, they’ll let me know how many states or countries they’ve been to and which ones. And I am genuinely interested to hear about it. However, I’ve found that everyone has different ideas about what counts as having visited a place. Here are some situations people argue about:

– airports

-driving through

-cruise ship stops

-living somewhere

I know that I 100% don’t count airports. All airports are the same everywhere, no matter the state or the country. You can see as much culture and as many different nationalities in the Columbus, Ohio airport as you can see in the Beijing, China airport. You don’t even step on the land itself. You see people from other countries more than you see the natives of that place while in an airport. I have been in more airports than I can count on my fingers and toes, but I don’t count a single one of them. Yes, I have been to the LA airport; in fact, I have even stepped on LA’s ground because you have to walk outside to change terminals. However, I have never been to LA.

Driving through. Oh, this one is argued about quite a bit. If you drive through a state to get to another state, does this count as having been there? If you’re going to South Carolina and drive through North Carolina, does that mean you can check North Carolina off your list? But what about if you stop to eat there? Or what if you just open your car door and plant your 2 feet firmly on the ground. Does it count? In my humble opinion, no.

When people tell me their cruise ship stops, I am a little hesitant to count those as countries visited. Yes, you may have stepped on the shore of Puerto Rico, but does 4 hours there actually count as having visited the country? Especially when you have only seen the touristy parts that your cruise guides you to….I know when I only get to stay in a country for a week, I feel like I haven’t got to experience even 1% of the country- its people, its food, its culture. How can a few hour stop allow you to understand a country’s essence?

I also wonder when people speak of “living” in a country. I heard a student say that she lived in Italy once when referring to staying for 2 months of the summer during a study abroad experience. I would venture to say that a person needs to have a permanent address before they can say they lived in a country. I guess my best bet would be to see if the locals consider you a neighbor, if they see you as a permanent part of their space in the world.

To know a place means to experience its food, its language, its religion, its people, its traditions, and its government. Perhaps you don’t have much time to spend in a country or a state. Well, spend some time learning about the place beforehand, so that you’ll know what you’re seeing when the time comes. Every time I visit a new country, or even a new area of my country, I try to read the history of the place, know what the racial makeup is, learn what the dominant religion is there and so on. When you get there, browse the local market or grocery store, walk around a college campus, try the local cuisine, and talk to the people. This will help you know the place you are. Then, you can say you have been to a place.

What are your rules about where you’ve been? Am I being too strict? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

State lines

Big City Livin’

New York City is the largest city in the US, population-wise, at a bit over 8 million people. While living in China, I lived in Hangzhou, a city of almost 9 million. My hometown is teeny tiny with a population of only 12,000, and I now live in a city of only 31,000. Even though I lived in the outskirts of that Chinese city, I still got used to big city livin’ over those 2 years. In fact, I miss it! Here’s why:

1) I liked that I could just hop on a bus and go do something interesting and exciting when I had free time. There is ALWAYS something to do or a new place to explore. Some neighborhood you’ve never seen, some site you haven’t checked out…

2) I also appreciated having things within walking distance. I was just thinking of this last night as I was sitting in my house dreading going to Walmart to buy some bananas. Why couldn’t I just walk a block to the little fruit stand? I also miss just walking around and exploring for fun. You can get your exercise in while you take a little stroll. In the city that I live in now, I’d get run over, or I’d have 10 friends stop and ask if I need a ride. Seriously, try to take a walk down a main road in non-sporty clothes and see the stares you’ll get.

3) I love the different cultures of big cities. You’ll find people of all races and from many different countries. And you know what that means? It means Ethiopian food when you’re craving it. It means going for a Taiwanese milk tea or to Japanese karaoke.

4) I need to live in a city that has a major airport. I am so tired of traveling an hour and a half to a small airport and two and a half hours to any major airport. I travel for work and for pleasure, so being that far from an airport is just plain annoying. Oh how I long to have a major airport right in my city once again!

My dad actually said to me this past weekend that he was surprised that I’m still living in the city I’m in. He said he sees me more in Columbus, or Pittsburgh, or Nashville. I think that sometimes myself. Maybe that’s why I travel so much; I can’t experience this here.  Sure there are things about big cities that aren’t good-traffic, higher crime rates, etc. But, for now, I’m missing the big city livin’.

Me and my friends in NYC- Japanese, Colombian, American, and Zimbabwean.

Counting Sheep

I know most people count sheep to try to fall asleep, but I am always doing uh, unique, things when I can’t sleep. I started my first method when I was a kid. I tried to name all my cousins. For some people, this may be an easy accomplishment. However, when your dad has 12 brothers and sisters, you end up with more than 30 first cousins. I seriously remember lying in my bed in 2nd or 3rd grade trying to name every cousin I have and always falling asleep before I finished.

My next technique started after moving to China. I try and count in Chinese as high as I can. Yi, er, san, snoooooze. That one usually works pretty well. I guess I started this one just because I was practicing my Chinese.

My newest method has been trying to name all the airports I have been in. I guess this one started a few months ago when I was buying a plane ticket. I started wondering if I had been to a certain airport, and I really didn’t know. So, that night in bed I tried to think of all the airports I have been through. It was quite a few! More than 25 I’m sure.

I got to thinking that these might be strange ways to try and fall asleep, but maybe others have even weirder things they count or name in order to make themselves sleepy. What works for you?