Oh, The Places I’ve Been

Flipping through my passport there are a few stamps.  All but one of the markings represent my entry into the United States or Guatemala from the year I spent living abroad.  A weekend stint to San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico to renew my passport is the only outlier.  These three countries are the extent of my international travel.

Currently, there are 196 countries in the world.  I’ve physically touched three of them, all on one continent.  Our world is full of diversity, hope, despair, beauty and even devastation – and this is what makes it unique.  Thousands of cultures and ethnicities, each rooted in tradition and values from several generations prior.

I want to experience it all.  There is a desire within me to step off of an airplane into each of the 196 countries.  A desire to walk through the streets of my ancestors and to the top of the tallest mountains.  I want to say, “I’ve been there and have seen that; more importantly it changed my life.”

Oh, The Places I’ve Really Been

196 Countries.  I know, that’s a lot.  With only three countries (one of which is my homeland) under my belt, I better begin laying the framework for making this happen.  I have 193 options to get the ball rolling.  I’ve always wanted to visit Italy to see the town where my great-grandparents lived.  France would make for a romantic trip with my fiancé.  Australia is full of adventure, and I hear the beaches of India are beautiful.

CountriesIf the average international plane flight is $991.82, this dream of mine could prove to be challenging.  Hell, I might need to find a career that will allow me to take a vacation once a month.  Until this past week, I have never given much thought to this dream; I only knew that it was there.

While making some updates to this site, I stumbled upon a few of the site statistics.  I was surprised by a few of the numbers and concerned about some others.  Then, I viewed an image of a statistic that I was not aware.  In the internet world, there is something called ‘traffic’ – it is associated with the people who are visiting your site.  And in the internet world, a lot of traffic is a good thing.

So, what is the image?  It’s a picture of a world map.  And on this map, there are a total of 25 countries that are highlighted.  Each of these shaded countries represents a country where at least one person has read one of my blog posts – one person who has visited Building United.  At this time I asked myself, ‘Where have I  really been in this world?’

Your Reach Extends Further than You Think

Physically I have driven across the United States, walked the streets of Guatemala and ridden a bus into Mexico.  But, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally I have been much further – without even realizing it.

I may never know or get to meet the people from each of these countries who choose to follow my blog.  Their story is one that I may never read, and never understand how the connection was made.  What I’ve realized, though, is that life can only take you so far physically before time, money and other resources become fewer.  On the other hand, your thoughts, words and actions can extend much further with a limited amount of resources.

Earlier, I stated that I want to point at a map to all 196 countries and say, “I’ve been there, and it changed my life.”  I’ve come to the realization that the likelihood of me doing that is rather small.  What I have also realized is that I have created a connection to someone in 13% of countries across the world.  And this intellectual travel has changed my life in ways that physical travel could have never done.

So, how do you do it?  How do you make your reach extend beyond your fingertips and without the need to move yourself thousands of miles to another place.  Honestly, there’s no rhyme, reason or recipe that will get your there.  I do suggest that it includes these three actions:

  1. Whatever your passion is, don’t just do it, live itFor me, running is something that has changed my life.  From it, I’ve learned so many lessons about discipline, hardship and perseverance.  Mix in with it a love for writing and you have this blog, and I try my damnedest to live it out everyday.
  2. Have the best of intentions and a genuine desire to help othersIt’s about giving, and giving without a need for return.  Be selfless.  Love, care and serve those around you.  The impact you have on one life has the ability to initiate a chain reaction of pay-it-forward acts of kindness.
  3. Be curious, build relationships and honor your commitmentsAsk questions, build into others and remain true to your words and obligations to others.  Practice humility and demonstrate courage; continue to be persistent.

Have you traveled the world?  Are there places you have yet to go, but hope to one day get?  Expand your horizons, and share your abilities with others.  There aren’t enough pages in a passport book to log all of the places where your ‘stamp’ has made an impact.

I’ll leave you with one final quote.  Although written for children, it’s words couldn’t be any truer today.

“You have brains in you head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own, and you know what you know.  And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

-Dr. Seuss

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