I have a bug. It makes me yearn for places unknown. It makes my heart flutter with the mention of foreign lands. It causes me to spend countless hours searching for plane tickets. It causes tears to well up in my eyes when a journey ends. It’s the travel bug and I’ve got it bad.
Sure I’ve succumbed to an actual travel virus as I trot around the globe, but it’s no match for the travel bug’s strength.
It started when I was a kid. Santa Claus was coming to town and I had a globe on my wish list. On my birthday I asked for a subscription to National Geographic.
In the summer holidays, my Mom in an effort to keep three kids occupied, would take us to the library to read. I inhaled the information in the Eyewitness Travel books. Sardinia, Corsica, Rome and Spain. I would go there one day I told myself.
Growing up in Canada, Mom and Dad said, “You are Canadian so you need to learn how to skate and ski.”
Snow wasn’t really my thing.
Mom enrolled me in judo, piano lessons, synchronized swimming, soccer, Indian heritage language classes and ballet. Nothing seemed to resonate with me. “Here you pick something,” she said, pushing an activity brochure into my lap.
Art class. Let’s give that a go.
Mrs. Uddenburg, our instructor, was from Trinidad. As we transformed blank canvases into mini masterpieces, she took our imaginations away to the tropical beaches and frenetic, energized Carnivals of her youth, when dancers would smother their lithe, golden bodies with a palette of vibrant colours to match their equally grandiose feathery, flirty costumes.
One day, I will go to Trinidad.
Nani, my maternal grandma is one of the bubbliest people I know. She has a major obsession with Bollywood old and new. When I was eight, Nani and Mom watched so many classic, black and white Raj Kapoor movies, that I became obsessed too. And it wasn’t only Bollywood that Mom enjoyed. On the weekends she would watch old Hollywood films, some set in faraway lands. In the 1955 film, Summertime, Venice was the star. Gondolas floated past unbelievably beautiful buildings that seemed to magically hover over narrow canals. Romance, not that I knew what that even meant at the time, was in the air.
One day, I will go to Italy.
My parents raised us with a love and understanding for people of all faiths. “When you pass a church, go inside and pay your respects,” advised my grandmother to my father when he was just a boy. It was that same acceptance that my parents passed down to me. “What is your religion?” kids would ask in school. “I believe in different paths to the same destination,” I replied.
I read snippets from the Bible, Guru Granth, Bhagavad Gita and the Quran, hoping to find similarities that bind us. The Holy Land’s Dome of the Rock glimmered a heavenly blue in the hot Middle Eastern sun. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all gathered in prayer, hoping the heavens would hear.
One day, I will go to Jerusalem.
Cartoons weren’t really my thing. Instead my eyes were glued on documentaries about Ukrainian orphans and far away lands. What did I want to be when I grew up? An oceanographer, plunging into cerulean seas like Jacques Cousteau and swim with the fishes.
One day, I will go to the Great Barrier Reef.
Dancing is just in my veins. Mom says she carted us off to traditional dancing celebrations when we were just one-years-old. So it only felt natural that I am drawn to cultures with heavy doses of twirls and swirls. As a television reporter, I wanted to dig in deeper into the Eastern European Roma community that had settled in Toronto as refugees. After many weeks of persuading them I could be trusted, I was invited to an event. The children jumped and kicked, clacking their heels in the air. Their fingers snapping to the energetic rhythm bouncing off the walls of the dingy apartment of their newfound home.
One day, I will go to Romania.
My parents were born in Uganda. Dad told us childhood tales of swimming in murky lakes slithering with giant snakes, a mysterious man who visited the creepy cemetery in the inky African nights and of tangy fruits bursting with sweet flavor. Mom sliced a matunda, Swahili for passion fruit and sprinkled it with crunchy grains of sugar.
One day, I will go to Uganda.
My paternal grandparents, Radha and Madhavji Chandarana shipped off to Uganda from the shores of the Arabian Sea. Ba, my grandma, grew up in a tiny village in a region of Gujarat called Saurashtra. When she was a teenager, her slender arms were pricked and the tiny holes filled with a deep, blue dye, forming permanent tattooed marks. My grandparents left Gujarat in search of better opportunities in an unknown land. The story of human migration. Leaving behind their country and culture, they set sail on a new journey, saying goodbye to their beloved India.
One day, I will go to the motherland.
Today I am lucky enough to actually work for a travel company. When I was preparing for the job interview, I was reminded of a gift my youngest sister once made me when I was a teenager. It was a book and each page had a different country on it. She had lovingly printed pictures of my head and attached them in countries across the globe.
In the interview, I told the would-be employers about her gift and they chuckled. I was told the new position would involve writing about the far corners of the wide world. “When can you start?” they asked.
A childhood dream fulfilled.