I love to travel. Seeing the World from different points of view, exploring cuisine, art, nature and people brings me joy. I don’t require an itinerary and there aren’t many places on this giant blue marble that I wouldn’t set as a destination. My wife is very much the same way and it’s one of the things that connected us early on in our relationship; a road trip to New Orleans to experience the Jazz Festival, to be precise, and perhaps the most memorable concert going experience of our lives. Obviously the notion of travel was quelled these past 24-months and while there are certainly far greater impositions to come out of the pandemic, that doesn’t mean we haven’t missed exploring the great unknown. Boarding a plane for the first time in three years, however, I can’t deny that I was more than a little apprehensive.
It wasn’t actually the airplane itself that shook my nerves, it was everything that went alongside it. Preparing to leave the country wasn’t so bad; if I tested positive on a rapid, the worst that could happen, besides being stricken with Covid of course, is I’d have to cancel my trip. Returning to Canada, however, could tell a very different story, as testing positive would lead to a whole world of logistical and financial challenges. I was anxious for the number of people I was going to be spending time with, for heading into a part of the world that has very different regulations on the pandemic and for how my own views would play into the various conversations I would find myself in. That al said, I was still excited to experience somewhere new; not to mention: Disneyland would be just around the corner from my hotel!
Anaheim, California, home to an industry trade show known as Expo West, where ~60,000 to 80,000 people from around the world gather to share and showcase products in the Natural Health channel. I’m not going to bore you with details of a trade show itself but I will say that my system went into shock at the sight of that many people not wearing masks and carrying on as though these past two plus years never happened. Hand shakes, hugs, kisses on the cheek and a total invasion of personal space are things I am not normally a fan of any day of the week, but this was next level stuff. It was trial by fire and I had to choose to let my anxiety take over and crash, or embrace that the World is headed back to a sense of normalcy and try to enjoy myself. I chose the latter.
In terms of most desirable, memorable and exceptional destinations, I am sorry, Anaheim, but this was admittedly not the ideal place for me. With the exception of Disneyland, there wasn’t much in the vicinity to take in, at least not that I could find or that others could recommend to me. When Alison and I travel, our favourite activity is to simply step out of the door and explore. We may consult a map to determine an end-point, but the journey is what truly excites us. We find ourselves happiest while in the midst of everything from uncharted restaurants, ancient ruins, art galleries, bakeries, fish markets and olive groves to sandy beaches, bowling alleys, wineries and night clubs; everything new is an experience and we’re happy just trying things for the first time. Unfortunately I didn’t have a ton of time to head out on the streets to explore but even if I had, the area in which I was staying is primarily business and convention centre focused. That said, the opportunity to share a space with people from around the globe, hearing their stories and learning what others have lived through is always a welcome and special experience.
It may not have been a life-chanigng adventure, but it did offer some glimmer of hope that things are, for real, stabilizing and we’re learning to live with this new reality. The virus isn’t gone and I don’t for a second want to suggest that I don’t recognize people around the world are still suffering great loss and difficulty. I am not being naive or intentionally insensitive here, I am simply acknowledging that perhaps we are slowly turning a corner. Travelling with the girls is something that Alison and I are both itching to do and something we had set as a printing goal for ourselves from day one; teaching them that the world doesn’t end in our backyard. There are people all over this Earth with stories worth sharing, there are cultures who do things differently than we do and so much can be learned from experiencing those differences first hand, acknowledging most importantly that ‘different’ does not mean ‘wrong’.
And then of course there’s food; that subject alone is a reason to travel the globe, appreciating the beauty and care that goes into meal preparations and that dining as a family, be that immediate or as a entire village, is a a celebration and not simply a chore. To witness how ingredients are handled differently from region to region and that resources we take for granted are sacred and deserving of utmost respect. That ingredients such as chicken feet and rabbit heads get discarded and are generally viewed as unappealing in North American cuisine but are rightfully prized in other parts of the World; stewed, pickled or steamed into delicious late night street food. I cannot wait to share these things with our girls and it seems that we are getting closer to doing so.
In closing: Anaheim, while I may not be gushing over you the same way I would say, Dawson City, I do wish to thank you for pushing me beyond my nerves and showing me that the winds do seem to be changing direction. And while I’d compare a visit within your city walls to a day trip into downtown Mississauga during the summer months (save for the beautiful palm trees), it’s once again not about the destination but the journey. I was introduced to people I won’t soon forget and, above all, I recognize that I experienced something new in my life and I want to live a life full of experiences not just live to exist. I was nervous, yes, but you must be scared before you can be brave and, as Alison and I have claimed as our motto in life: I found the good and made the most of it.