Someone recently asked me to list all of the places I've been in the world. It took me a while and I had to use the refrigerator magnets to help me remember, but I think I did it. I got close anyway.
It amazed me once I saw it all written down both how many and how few places I had been. What I had seen and done and learned. Where I had been more than once, where I longed to return, and where I felt I had gotten my fill.
Authentic experiences seemed to be what attracted me most. It made me wonder: For what percentage of people is that true? My understanding is that most Americans prefer to never leave the resort.
They want corporate, chain hotels, familiar food, and English speaking-hosts. But is that just my perception or is that actually true? I myself love some corporate-owned hotels. I would move into the Marriott on St. Kitts if they would have me.
It's familiar and convenient and completely without risk.
But I also like to wander "off campus," as it were, and to stay in less obvious places. The thing is, it's hard to kick what I have to assume is my American born fear. If I am without a guide - local or otherwise - to show me around a new place, I do feel a little scared.
Should I? Well, my Nia dance teacher once told me what Carlos, the founder of Nia, had told her. "One should walk through life consciously not cautiously." And I realized that that was it. In general, we have become very accustomed to sleep walking. Life has become so familiar that there's no need to think much about it.
So, we either don't care to go where we'd have to wake ourselves up or, if we do go, we pick somewhere where it's safe to be half asleep because we don't have much practice in being conscious.
What I discovered from my list is that the more aware I was forced to be, the more enjoyable the experience because, well, I did actually experience something. Being aware is something I am still in the process of learning, through Nia actually. A dance practice based in awareness, natural time, and a variety of dance and movement arts.
I'm learning to sense and to go by those senses. Not just, 'I'm hungry. I need to eat." But instead, "I'm hungry. What kind of food and how much does my body need?" Not just, "I'm scared. Stop whatever you're doing." But instead, "I'm scared. Why is that and what can I do to change that short of missing out on the experience?" You get the idea.
After formulating my list, I realized the question had changed. "Where have you traveled?" was what I had been asked. But when I looked at where I had gone and where I had not; what I had done and what I had not; I realized the question was actually "Where have you been?"
I don't believe in resolutions. They are too easily broken. But I do have a goal for 2011 - to be where I am. I don't mean I'm going to stay at home. I mean I'm going to seek presence. I'm going to find myself wherever I am and have the experience I am meant to have.
So, where have I traveled and where have I been in the last five years or so?
1. Languedoc, France - where I walked the ancient Pilgrimage road.
2. Spain - where I visited with the Osborne wine family.
2. Prague - where I stayed in a monastery and bought Kundera books
3. Budapest - where I saw my family name carved in a Holocaust memorial
4. Amsterdam - where I wandered through Anne Frank's home and witnessed the opening of the Hermitage satellite museum.
5. The Cook Islands - where I swam with an octopus and ate in islanders' homes
6. St. Kitts - where I ziplined, won a poker tournament, and climbed a volcano with a guide named O'Neil who told me that the rain forests where created by "One man. One Hand."
7. The Abacos, Bahamas - where I met a couple who had dropped out of the world to sail around it with their three school-age daughters
8. Macau - where I ate street food, stood at the top of the Macau tower, had drinks at the Lion's Bar, and burned incense in an ancient temple
9. Rio - where I rode a giant ferris wheel erected to woo the Olympic committee, drank cachaça, ate açaí, visited a samba school, and watched Carnival floats being made
10. Paris - where I fulfilled my daughter's dream of turning eleven under the Eiffel Tower while wearing a lime green beret and eating a croissant
11. Japan - where I painted a lantern, ate where the Sumo wrestlers dine, wore a kimono, stayed in a Ryokan, and played games with Geishas
12. Switzerland - where I slept in a barn in the hay, mined for gold in the river, and hiked through National parks that made me wish the word "awesome" could still be used without irony
13. Lynchburg, Tenneesee - where I was a judge in the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition
14. Vegas - where I attended the Adult Entertainment Awards and Convention
15. Portland, OR - where I earned my White Belt in Nia
16. Joshua Tree - where I learned to rock climb with author and guide Matt Walker
17. Palm Springs, CA - where I got to live like a real rock star at The Parker
18. Tucson, Arizona - where I stayed at Miraval and scaled a forty-five-foot tall telephone ball, balanced on a tiny platform, and jumped off (with a harness on, of course).
19. Italy - where I was flown via helicopter (to avoid traffic) from Milan to Monza to watch the Formula One races from the Martini & Rossi tent the day after I went to the Venice Film Festival
20. St. Croix - where I went to a local food festival and visited a real commune where residents live off the land, live in treehouses, and have a barter "economy"
22. The Sea of Cortez - where I cruised for seven days aboard a 100-passenger Cruise West ship, painted an orphanage in La Paz, and taught my daughter to snorkel
23. Greenland - where I stood on a glacier that we arrived at via helicopter, went whale watching, and ate seal
24. Costa Rica - where I played on the black beaches, saw a spiny puffer fish up cloe and personal, watched monkeys play in the trees, and learned what "pura vida" really means
25. San Juan - where I toured Old San Juan and Fort San Cristobal, went kayaking in the Pinones Lagoon, wandered through the Noches de Galerias, and stayed at the Marriott
26. Curacao - where I rode ATVs over the cliffs, snorkeled for the first time, fed snapping turtles and nurse sharks (through holes in plexiglass. I'm not completely insane), ate iguana, and stayed at Lion's Dive and Kura Hulanda.
27. Honduras - where I hung out with two monkeys who stole my Diet Coke and my girlfriend's granola bar
28. Tulum, Mexico - where I spent a week at a nudist resort called Hidden Beach and learned that ping pong is best played while clothed
29. Troncones and Zihuatanejo, Mexico - where I released baby turtles into the sea after their eggs where protected from poachers and stayed at Casa Viva and visited the building site for Playa Viva, actual eco resorts where green doesn't just mean using the towels more than once
30. Panama - where I visited the Canal, danced with the Embera Indians, and watched monkeys jump all over our boat
31. Denmark - where I toured in a Canal Boat, sailed on a Viking ship, toured Tivoli Gardens, and went over the bridge to visit Malmo, Sweden where I wandered through Ales Stenar
32. The Dominican Republic - where I visited the Artist's Colony at Altos de Chavon and walked the beaches, and tried sugar for the first time
33. Private Islands of Georgia - where I ate crabs caught off our own dock, experienced a low country boil, met a cavier "farmer," went kayaking and powerboating, hiked the islands, and had a drink in 10' x 10' bar - the only one on Sapelo Island
34. Santa Fe - where I visited the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, made my first pot on a wheel with artist Heidi Loewen, climbed the Puye Cliff Dwellings, and stayed at Loretto
35. St. Thomas - where I sailed on a retired America's cup boat
36. Austin - where I stayed at Lake Austin Spa Resort, ate cupcakes bought from an Airstream, watched a doggie costume parade, and did a readings of my book at Book People and Book Woman
37. Aruba - where I went parasailing and on a safari jeep adventure, toured Oranjestad, learned to play beach tennis, took a catamaran cruise, and stayed at the Aruba Marriott.
38. The Eastern Caribbean - where I cruised on an ship so massive I rock climbed, ice skated, bowled, saw the Blue Man Group, had a drink in an ice bar, and got slimed all onboard.
Where have you been?
Follow Jenny Block on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Jenny_Block