This Traveller Loves to Come Home Too

That’s me –after several weeks abroad and enjoying every day, immersed in a foreign country and language environment,  I love to come home too.

Rider on horse marionnette. Marionette Museum, Cesky Krumlov. Czech Republic 2010. Photo by J.Chong
Rider on horse marionnette. Marionnette Museum, Cesky Krumlov. Czech Republic 2010. Photo by J.Chong

To my own bed, quiet at home and diverse choice of food.

Not Get Too Lost
I’m not exactly your tourist,  clutching tightly onto my pillow from home or I’m peering fearfully around each corner.

Yet I’m the person that doesn’t like to be lost for over half an hr.  Even in my own home city. Who wants to be lost in the wilds of the sprawling suburbs?  Then oops, I’m near a major highway interchange on bike.

Stained glass mosaic art with traditional Ukranian motifs. Ukranian community centre. Edmonton, Alberta 2015. Photo by J.Chong
Stained glass mosaic art with traditional Ukrainian motifs. Ukrainian community centre. Edmonton, Alberta 2015. Photo by J.Chong. In Alberta’s past, large numbers of Ukrainians settled and farmed in Alberta.

I’ve been to Europe on 3 different trips over the past 30 years.  In  total, that’s only 11 weeks of my life so far.   I haven’t even touched down on South America, Mexico, Central America, Carribbean, Asia, Africa nor Australia, New Zealand.  I haven’t even bothered to create a travel bucket list of dream destinations.

Too Coddled or Some Diversity at Home?
I’m beginning to  wonder if I’ll ever jet off to these other non-North American locations.  Especially when I’m bopping around visiting Vancouver and Toronto just to see family and friends annually.  As I mentioned in an earlier post in Cycle Write Blog….Canada is very enormous, time-consuming and expensive to travel across.

Sculpture of resting, in-transition travellers. At train station, Karslruhle, Germany 2010. Photo by J.Chong. City birthplace for Jack.
Sculpture of resting, in-transition travellers. At train station, Karlsruhle, Germany 2010. Photo by J.Chong. City birthplace for Jack.

Puny Defenses for Not Travelling Enough –When Ignoring Budget, Time
I probably sound naïve and foolish.  Even though I haven’t travelled extensively and bankrupted my budget, I don’t feel my world is especially  narrow and overly single-lensed.  Here are my paltry self-justifications, my puny defenses:

*speaking 2 languages, 1 mother tongue (crappy Chinese fluency) and English as my primary language already gives anyone automatic cultural passport, into a 2nd cultural window . Especially if you are forced to speak a dying mother tongue because of relatives, family.   Even if that 2nd cultural window is small, it’s still another window, another perspective.

Home window. Arles, France 2012. Photo by J. Becker
Window. Arles, France 2012. Photo by J. Becker

*with immigrant parents who don’t come from an Anglo culture, it’s just a reminder every day in Canada, that I often ate different foods, understood different colloquialisms based on the immigrant experience (my parents never referred to us as “jook sing” or hollow bamboo  meaning not really Chinese in soul),  curious cultural mannerisms (thank you, mother for spitting in the bathroom but not out in public, or father drinking hot water on  humid summer days).

*cycling as my preferred daily transportation for past few decades.  I’ve explored my home cities, Canada and other countries abroad, in ways that’s a very different sensation than being car-bound.  Bike explorations gets you into corners a car sometimes is not allowed.

Luggage sculpture. Toronto Pearson International Airport 2015.
Luggage sculpture. Toronto Pearson International Airport 2015.

*growing up quite poor in Canada and now living as middle-class. Though I did grow up in 1 bedroom apartment in Canada with 5 children (before 6th one), I know it’s not the same as being poor and desperate from serious malnutrition and lack of sanitation in other parts of the world. Some prolonged experience of poverty, keeps one rooted and not completely unaware of problems elsewhere.

*acute awareness how different my life would have been if I was born in China. I might have ended up as a teen, toiling in a rice field commune during the height of Maoism when high school, college and university education was reviled, teachers punished as “imperialist” in the 1970’s.  A cousin was simply ordered to work full-time as a teenager, in the rice paddies in China. She complained of leeches latching onto her feet in the water.  She later immigrated to Canada.

Near Harmony Lake. 5 km. north of Whistler, British Columbia 2004. Photo by J.Chong
Near Harmony Lake. 5 km. north of Whistler, British Columbia 2004. Photo by J.Chong

*being part of a large family with some interracial marriages and children.

*living most of my life in Canada’s biggest and most diverse cities each  over 1 million people. I feel the contrast when I  remember my childhood in smaller city, or going cycling with our camping gear into rural areas of Canada where the local population is more homogenous.

Layered pastel colour mountain ranges overlooking Ghost Range, home of U.S. southwest painter, Georgia O'Keefe. Approx. 50 km. outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico 2004. Photo by J. Chong
Layered pastel colour mountain ranges overlooking Ghost Ranch, home of U.S. southwest painter, Georgia O’Keefe. Approx. 50 km. outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico 2004. Photo by J. Chong

Yes, my travel experiences transported me in awe, gazing at world art in famous museums.  I never knew paintings  so large or colours still so brilliant after several centuries. Very different from cramped photos in art books.  Or jaw-dropping richness of architectural history jammed in 1 city or town.

Or nearly in my own backyard, snow sparkling mountains and turquoise gem lakes.

Buddhist temple grounds. Built by and in commemoration of the Japanese immigrants to Hawai'i. Maui, 2009. Photo by J.Chong
Buddhist temple grounds. Built by and in commemoration of the Japanese immigrants to Hawai’i. Maui, 2009. Many initially worked sugar cane plantations. Photo by J.Chong

It is not that the wonders of foreign travel don’t tempt me at all. It’s many of us have each walked our own different life journeys. Sometimes “travels” are multiple journeys  we  switch along, in our mind  as we play different roles in life.

We also have a limited budgeted or don’t want to or know how to do an extensive foreign travel trip by just cheap camping.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon 2005. Photo by J. Becker
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon 2005. Photo by J. Becker

I’m grateful for taking travel opportunities so far. I look forward to rare opportunities here and there later. But I haven’t been motivated to draw up a travel destination dream list.

Church built in 1600's. Outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico 2005. Photo by J.Becker
Church built in 1600’s. Outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico 2004. Photo by J.Becker

After a long journey or even just a hop across the border to the U.S., I return home in Canada to see home in a new, but familiar way. To me that’s what travel is:  exploring ways to find unusual among the common, common among the diverse.  Ways to light your imagination and understanding from seeing and feeling the pulse how other people translate their world into words, art, architecture and culture.

Other Reading
Chong, J.  Looking into Canada’s Soul: Part I. Freaking Out over Vast Time, Distance and Climatic Toughness. In Cycle Write. Jul. 2, 2014.

Cycling near Kilaueau Beach. Kaui Island, Hawai'i 2002. Photo by J. Becker
Cycling through a guava fruit orchard near Kilaueau Beach. Kauai Island, Hawai’i 2002. Photo by J. Becker
Amazing front façade of Freiburg Cathedral. Freibrug, Germany 2010. Photo by J.Chong. One of many figurines embedded around front entrance.
Amazing front façade of Freiburg Cathedral. Freiburg, Germany 2010. Photo by J.Chong. One of many figurines embedded around front entrance. Blend of German medieval, renaissance and baroque styles over centuries.
Vancouver Airport greets visitors with fantastic Canadian Northwest coast native Indian art. My favourite airport worldwide --even though I've never been all international airports. 2016. Photo by J.Chong Part of red cedar carving by Reg Smith, entitled Raven Stealing Beaver Lake. Based on a Haida legend.
Vancouver Airport greets visitors with fantastic Canadian Northwest coast native Indian art. My favourite airport worldwide –even though I’ve never been all international airports. 2016. Photo by J.Chong Part of red cedar carving by Reg Smith, entitled Raven Stealing Beaver Lake. Based on a Haida legend.

 

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31 Comments Add yours

  1. Sue Slaght says:

    I think travel and exploration looks different for all. Richness of experience can happen in so many ways and is an individual choice. Although I love to travel the world I would never assume that it would be the want for all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, very true. Some people have little desire to travel beyond 200 km. from home. Not a problem if they also augment that with reading lots and learning.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mabel Kwong says:

    Such a refreshing perspective on traveling around close to where you live. Going abroad is not everyone’s cup of tea but if you take the time to explore your backyard and the places not too geographically distant, there is so much you can learn. Love that shot of you and Columbia River George in Oregon. That river looks quite a sight, and quite a size too. Also really like the Hawaii shot – it looks like you are cycling your heart out, going the distance 🙂

    Love your “puny defenses”. Sometimes who we interact with day in and day out affects how much we know about the world. It does sound like you have a diverse community around you. “what travel is: exploring ways to find unusual among the common, common among the diverse.” Beautifully said and I couldn’t agree more.

    I haven’t managed to travel internationally over the last couple of years. While I’m itching to go some place, a part of me doesn’t really mind exploring Australia a bit more. Like Canada, Australia is a big country, but not as big and traveling interstate is relatively affordable if you book in advance. The way we speak, customs and how we choose to live our life down to our fashion choices differs from state to state, and same goes to the scenery of nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      The Oregon photo was also in a magazine on women’s travel and fitness about 1 yr. after photo was taken.
      Aussieland is far from North America and Europe, so probably expensive to travel to such destinations. In a way Australia is like Canada –very large with huge tracts of land/wilderness, not populated much at all.
      You probably would love Hawaii since it’s the closest U.S. point, but quite different in underlying historical culture than mainland U.S. Have you been to North America or Europe yet?

      It is useful to understand one’s own homeland geography and regional differences also. Australia has enough diversity in its climate and people to offer that. Though I doubt it gets super freezing winters like ours — -35 degrees C and lower!

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        Wow, congratulations Jean for appearing in the travel and fitness magazine. You must have been chuffed 🙂

        I have yet to go to North America or Europe. Probably will hit Europe in the next couple of years. You are right in that Australia’s winters are rarely that cold unless you live in the mountain areas. We are now in the middle of winter and the temperature hit 17’C / 62’F this week.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Magazine no longer exists. But it was nice.. I forget the seasons are reversed where you are. Our summer nights can often drop to 10 to 14 degrees C. This week our day summer temp. will be around 21 to 24 degrees C which is perfect summer weather to me. Ontario has been slumping along in 30 to 42 degrees C with nearly 90-100% humidity. In the prairies, we have drier air year round….but that doesn’t stop snow blizzards.

          May Europe will still be ok to travel. We are going..

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Bun Karyudo says:

    I don’t know, judging from your photographs, you seemed to have traveled a fair bit! I’d like to try cycling in a foreign country. These days, money is extremely tight, so I do most of my traveling through the Internet and other people’s blogs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      You seem to have a natural curiosity to learn by reading lots in many different ways, BunK (:D I realize your acronym..) and interacting with people internationally via blog. I know it’s superficial..but then a lot of travel is superficial unless one lives in foreign country for awhile.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bun Karyudo says:

        I do enjoy learning about the world through the Internet. I guess a lot of bloggers do. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. livelytwist says:

    You’ve done a fair bit of travelling to other physical locations. I think mind travel through books, movies, is also valid too.

    You say that you return home in Canada to see home in a new, but familiar way. I guess you don’t also see the world in quite the same way too. This to me is one of the essence of travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      For Canada, travelling in other countries, does deepen some positives for Canada. The negatives might tend to be the reality that we live in huge country which can create challenges in seeing loved ones face to face. Skype can only take you so far over the Ethernet!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gemma says:

    Nice post, definitely puts a different spin on the usual travel blog – I enjoyed reading! Looking forward to seeing more of your blog 🙂 hope you can check out/follow mine https://myhappycornerblog.wordpress.com 🙂

    Like

  6. How many of us forget to explore home until someone comes to visit? Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Like us, when we visited and biked Eugene OR. 🙂

      Like

  7. I always like the pictures you have taken. Really nice.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for the compliments, travelplanet! I just haven’t gotten over to Asia yet.

      Like

  8. I love how you stay close to the ground. =) Great shot of you, J. Look so fit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      HWF, it’s been awhile you’ve darkened the door of this blog. Good to see you. No, I definitely am not a skydiver traveller.

      Like

      1. It’s been a while since I’ve stood at my own door. =) As for your mode of travel, ha ha ha. Keep that good head on your shoulders.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Stay healthy too, HWF.

          Like

          1. Thx. Sweet of you. Will do that with you. -)

            Like

  9. Lani says:

    I think there is unseen pressure these days to get out and see the world because of modern convienences and “it’s never been easier”. Some folks are content with what they have experienced and are perfectly okay with what they see on TV (i.e. the Travel Channel). Whenever I ask my students if they want to travel or go here or there, inevitably there is a student or two or three that doesn’t want to go anywhere. However, I’ve been bitten with the travel bug – but I don’t have the budget to do more than my “work and live abroad” through my slug-like pace. I also don’t have this crazy drive to budget and see what I can NOW like other friends. I’m a bit of I like the comforts of home and would like to see more. One day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Your situation is quite different from the travel bucket enthusiast –living and learning in intensity at your pace while earning money. Do you see yourself ever finishing life in the U.S.?

      I’m not going to kid myself that I would want to live somewhere with lots of mosquitoes and barely clean water without a stove plus a shower. I don’t even know how to swim. So even the thought of bathing somewhere in a river I’m not comfortable except in some Canadian wilderness without bears around in pure clean water. It’s enough your students want to learn English, never mind travel lots outside of their country.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        I have no idea. Given the current political situation and climate in the US, I don’t think so.

        But I’m ready to be in a developed country. Have been for years. It’s not always easy to be on this side, pros and cons, just like anywhere…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Um, yes. Presidential campaign has been a lot strange theatre.

          Like

  10. Have you been to China recently? It would be interesting to note the change between the China now and the one you know from anecdotes.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      No, I haven’t been to China yet. I regret not going there 10 years ago or so. Some of the big cities certainly have become sophisticated…but with a price –more polluted air, far heavier use of cars, etc. For myself, I would look selectively where to go. I think you may have been there?

      Like

      1. I went to 4 cities but I do wish I could explore more.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          It’s in your blog?.. Which city was your favourite?

          Like

  11. Wonderful, Jean, really enjoyed this one, and sorry to have been a stranger for so long. I feel I know you better after reading this post. FWIW: I’m not a great traveler myself, and, like you, my fondest excursions have been bike tours, including one to Nova Scotia, and another to the Canadian Rockies. I enjoy these “big ticket” vacations in the moment, but don’t enjoy the planning, paperwork, or the actual getting there, e.g., airport hassles, the flights, etc. Your photos are great as always, and many thanks for sharing some of your personal journey. Cheers from chilly New Hampshire!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Happy New Year, Mark! As you can see, after I wrote this blog post, we went to Europe a year later. But different sights. Hope you and family travel abit more if you can and still healthy. More fodder for your comics. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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