While working on the application for a Russian visa I ran into an item that made me stop and think. In addition to taking a bit of research to complete it really struck me as a genuinely interesting visa application item.
This item was simply:
List all countries you have visited in the last ten years and indicate the year of visit.
Since I hadn't traveled internationally up to 5 years ago this became:
List all countries you have visited in the last five years and indicate the year of visit.
I will admit that I put off this section of the application far too long. I was afraid that it would be impossible for me to remember all of the places that I've been to.
While this task did take me a while to figure out I was able to complete it out after consulting my passport, and various bits of paperwork; I came up with the following list (in alphabetical order):
CANADA 03, 05, 06, 07, 08
GERMANY 04, 07
NORWAY 07, 08
SOUTH KOREA 07
UNITED KINGDOM 04, 05
This list doesn't reflect multiple trips to the same country in a year, like 3 trips to Canada in one year (2006), but you get the idea.
Condensing 5 years of international travel into a concise list in this way seems to degrade my experiences a bit. Looking at it now; it doesn't seem like I've traveled very much, but I certainly recall traveling quite a bit. Moreover, I've only visited 12 countries. That's only two new countries a year. I'm not sure why, but that makes me a little sad.
Compared to a lot of people I know this is a huge amount of travel but, at the moment, my accumulated travels seem like a very small accomplishment sitting neatly in box 27 of my application in 10 point font.
Perhaps it's been too long since I've been out of the country, and I'm forgetting how different and challenging it has been and can be. Only 5 months ago I was in Norway. Am I going through a sort of international travel withdrawal? Of course I'd been to Norway before so it wasn't that much of a challenge to go back. I guess it's been over a year since I've been to a new country; a destination full of unknown challenges and surprises.
Is it just the new places that are exciting? I don't think so. There are plenty of old favorites that I enjoy but box 27 doesn't allow for those to bring the bigger picture into focus. In a moment of quick thinking it's easy to overlook the comfortable and familiar, and that's a terrible thing to do to oneself.
I'll continue to enjoy all of the new challenges that travel brings along with finding comfort in the places that I have grown to love.
So, where have you been in the last 5 years?
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