I am not a world traveller.
Iâ€™ve never been outside of North America; my passport has the stamp for entry to America and nothing else. Iâ€™ve never been to Mexico or Australia, Jakarta or Samarkand. I may or may not ever see any of those places.
Iâ€™ve been thinking of travel because spring is here, whether officially or not. When the trees burst into bloom and I can venture outside without multiple layers for warmth and waterproofing, I start to get itchy feet. I start to read Wikipedia articles about distant places, and wonder why I know so little about Indonesia, or Tunisia, or Estonia. You could make a pretty good travel itinerary just by listing all the countries that end in â€œia.â€
I am unlikely to simply buy a plane ticket, demand my vacation time, and head off. Like pretty much everyone else, I have responsibilities and a bank account that demands to be filled up frequently.
Yet I have family members who have travelled, even lived abroad, and friends who have done the same. South America, Europe, Asia â€“ I know people who have studied, worked, and lived in all three. And of course I know many people who came here from other countries and have made their new home here, nestled between the ocean and the mountains.
Inadvertently, I have become the opposite of a widely travelled person. I have become not a hermit, but a kind of expert on the local.
I grew up in Langley and donâ€™t remember living anywhere else. If you had to find the geographic centre of the Langleys, the point where it would balance if uprooted and placed on a giant spike, it would be close to my familyâ€™s home.
From there, my world moved outward, by family car trips, bicycle, and eventually my own cars. In my teens I had jobs mowing lawns and painting houses that took me into neighbourhoods from one end of town to the other. I learned the simple grid of streets, and then some of the more complex nooks and crannies.
I know of back entrances to parks, cut-throughs that allow a cyclist to slice across BC Hydro right-of-ways and into quiet cul-de-sacs. I know the walking paths that wind through ravines, where cool air drifts up from creeks in the summer and the air smells of cedar.
I know where heritage homes and markers are tucked away, where the old sawmills stood, and where spillways controlled the flow of water in now-wild creeks.
I know the feel of the roads â€“ smooth highways, the bump of asphalt forced up by cottonwood roots, and the rough rural roads, not paved or patched in a generation.
The cost of this local knowledge â€“ of almost two decades working in Langley â€“ is that I can get quickly lost if too far over municipal boundaries. Toss me into the wilds of Port Coquitlam or White Rock, and Iâ€™m liable to find myself stuck in a cul-de-sac, poking at my phone for a map.
If given a few hundred thousand dollars and a ride to the airport, Iâ€™d happily expand my horizons. I would gladly visit any continent â€“ I know enough to know how little I know and how much I have to learn.
But Iâ€™m not sure I would make a trade of my local knowledge for that of a world traveller.
The way I gained my knowledge of my home town wasnâ€™t exactly work â€“ it grew around me, like roots around a stone.
Iâ€™m bound up by strands of memories and experiences shaped by my home.
And I still have more to learn, even in the place I know best.