travel map  My playground

In the last two years, I have been to 15 countries…far less than many of my backpacking counterparts who I have met. However, throw in two trips to Alaska and three trips to Hawaii, which can be every bit as expensive and adventurous as international travel, and the fact that I lingered in many of these countries for months rather than just weeks, and it really doesn’t seem that bad. I covered some ground.

The problem is: I haven’t even scratched the surface!

Depending on whether or not you count a few, there are 194 independent countries in the world. That means there are 179 countries out there just waiting for me. A whopping 179 new places with people, food, adventures, dangers, and life to experience. I haven’t even been to two of the non-frozen continents yet. (Australia and South America; Antarctica doesn’t count!)

Unfortunately, my hands are now tied. With great hesitation, I mailed my passport off today and within a matter of days, it will be lost somewhere in the labyrinths of governmental hell in Washington D.C. I only had one usable page left, thanks to all the crack-smoking, stamp-wielding border agents who I have encountered, and so I am hoping that my industrious government can add more pages.

More pages hungry to taste the sweet ink of a visa stamp.

I am not going to lie, government bureaucracy scares me worse than anything in the world. Even more than the tiny fish that swim into your private parts when you go pee in the Amazon. Yes, it is that bad. Especially now that the U.S. requires passports for Mexico and Canada. I am sure that the chimpanzees chained to desks can’t possibly keep up with all the passport-related requests coming in.

When I handed over the envelope with my dear passport at the post, I stood anxiously like a mom watching the bus drive away on the first day of school. I have been warned that I may not see my passport again for six to eight weeks! Considering that this thing has always been on my body — or locked in a safety box — for the last two years, I might have well sent a kidney off instead.

Meanwhile, as I begin to gnaw on my leg to free an invisible chain, I find myself a stranger in a strange land. Things at home always feel different after time abroad, but this is ugly. At a couple of parties recently I have found myself actually avoiding questions rather than eager to talk about my travels. It seems that I can no longer connect with people the way that I should, unless they have experienced some of the things that are always on my mind.

When asked the customary and inescapable question of “what do you do?” I have rotated my responses between “drug dealer,” “hit man,” and “international hacker.” Funny enough, the last one always seems to make people the most uncomfortable and they usually end the conversation to rush home and change their Facebook passwords.

Oh well. I can definitely stay busy by continuing work on my websites and reading the 15 new travel books that Santa was kind enough to bring me. The one material possession that I really miss while I am away? My books.

Despite forfeiting my option to cross a border for the next 6+ weeks today, and soon-to-come nightmares of the toothpick fish, life is good!