Cuenca, Ecuador – During my sophomore year in high school, I enrolled in a class called World History and Geography. It turned out to be one of my favourite school courses ever. It was taught by the charismatic, slightly eccentric, but lovely Mrs Meyer. She had a way of livening up the subject that kept me engaged the full hour. I can’t remember what we were discussing one afternoon, but she piped in that she had a friend in that far distant country. She went on to say that she had friends in dozens of countries around the world. I was in awe. I wanted friends from all around the world too!

I often wonder where this fascination with the world and other cultures came from. Is it left over from a past life? Was I born with it? Did it come from that mystery man who visited our school with the slide show pictures of the Galápagos Islands? Was it all those National Geographics in our basement? Was it something or someone else? All I know is that it’s been there, an intrinsic part of me, for as long as I can remember. And my life choices have always been made to seek out that desire to see every nook and cranny of the world and to befriend people from countries outside my own.

This desire took me to Iowa for my first year of college, where over 50% of the students were from outside of the US. Here I made friends with Russians, Greeks, Canadians, Japanese, English, Austrian, and Indian. I loved it! A romance developed during those years took me further to England, where a six month working holiday turned into building a new life and a place I’ve called home for 16 years. And now I find myself in Ecuador, seven months into a year travelling the world. By the end of June, I’ll have visited over 50 countries in my life to date and I have friends or close acquaintances in nearly all those places. I achieved what I wanted through my own choices.

Now, at 38, I find that that people that matter the most to me, those who I call my family and dearest friends are spread out all across the world. They’re in places like Arizona, Missouri, Alabama, Edmonton Canada, London England, Geneva Switzerland, Montepucullio Italy, Duabi UAE, Sydney Australia, Auckland New Zealand or somewhere in between travelling the world themselves.

I read a book in Indonesia called “The five people you meet in heaven”. I’m spiritual but not religious, so was drawn to this book. (It’s a wonderful read and not at all ‘churchy’). According to this author and his theory, heaven is different for each and everyone of us, because heaven is that place and time on earth were we were most happy in our lives.

Just by the nature of it, travelling around the world gives you a lot of time to think. You spend hours, sometimes days in buses, in airports, sitting on your own at dinner or over a coffee, or wandering aimlessly through a foreign city. And I started to think about where that happy place on earth is for me. After months of contemplation, I still don’t really have a perfect answer, not yet anyway. Right now it’s still a fantasy place, where the people that mean the most to me are not scattered around the world, but close by, preferably in a culture and architecture like London, with weather like Phoenix and a scenic backdrop like Cape Town. This would be my heaven.

I’m very grateful for all the things I’ve seen and all the people I’ve met and now call friends. Just wish I could combine all my favourite places and people in one place! Now that would be amazing. 🙂