I have recently realized that my US passport might be my most essential possession -- especially as I get older and become more convinced that the only reason to earn a paycheck is to be able to buy plane tickets.
I think this philosophy anchors me firmly among a growing number of decidedly privileged international travelers who are both from one place and, if even metaphorically, at home in more than one place. I don't refer to the Jolie-Pitt kind of world traveler with actual homes in more than one place; I refer to a mobile subset of the population who relish their "homelessness" for a significant portion of each year.
Pico Iyer poetically calls this increasingly mobile population, driven by patterns of world commerce and the historically unprecedented ease of air travel, a collection of "global souls." In a 2008 talk at UC Santa Barbara (one of my many stops, incidentally, as a nomad through higher education), he said, "Talking about a global soul is a way to try to ask how we may take the cool word 'global' and attach it to conscience."
Here in the SeaTac airport food court, I am struck by this suggested word combination, as well as his consideration of the word "global" paired with others like "heart" and "loyalty." His word-play resonates with the purpose of my week's travel: to meet with some of the creative and compassionate people at Creative Visions Foundation -- some of whom directly support the work I do with Cura Orphanage, on the other side of the planet.
Though I and other "creative activists" may also jet off for leisure and tourism, I'm fairly certain that the bulk of our mileage plan accumulations come from the travel we do to promote and sustain the charitable work we do all over the world. We feel at home in airports, and we smile to ourselves every time we need to order new pages for our passports.
But our global souls are in their infancies compared to one of my she-roes: Jane Goodall.
This incredible woman travels most of the year, promoting concepts and causes that benefit all of us, regardless of nationality. She is a British citizen, but part of her identity is inextricably linked with Tanzania -- and, indeed, to the at least 120 countries in which her Institute and its humanitarian and environmental programs have taken root. For me, she epitomizes Iyer's "global soul," in that she has become a living embodiment of global interconnectedness, becoming rootless herself in an effort to plant enduring and global seeds of change.
I wonder whether Ms. Goodall sees herself in this way, and if she relishes, like I do, the time she spends in transit, taking in the inherent placelessness airports afford. And, actually, I've been wondering about Dr. Goodall quite a bit lately.
It started on a recent journey to Kenya, when I visited the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Chimpanzee Sanctuary she founded there. Standing on an observation platform watching a family of chimps approach the fence, I had a flash of an idea: Dr. Jane Goodall should come to my home town and be in a parade!
Not just any parade, of course.
In my travels, I do come across people who have never heard of the Tournament of Roses, its Parade or the Rose Bowl Game, but anyone who grew up in Pasadena or has any interest in college football will recognize that these New Year's Day festivities are glorious and colorful celebrations not only of our hometown but also of the international marching bands and programs that participate. My step-mom, Sally, has been involved for decades with the volunteer organization that runs these events, and she was put in line for the president's role roughly eight years ago.
Last month, I was giddy when humanitarian and "global soul" Jane Goodall graciously accepted Sally's invitation!
And I'll look forward to welcoming her, together with my parents, to the little corner of the world where I'm from.