The Mysterious Justin recently asked me the following question:
"If money & time were no object, where would you go? What would you do?"
It took me a while to figure this one out. Actually, I don't think I really did. But because I like to travel, I liked the question, and here, with some editing, are the general points I came up with:
If time and money were really no object and I could go anywhere and do anything, I would volunteer for a Christian aid organisation and bring humanitarian and spiritual goods and services to people around the world. That way I would get to see a lot of places, and help out in a good cause at the same time. I would tell you which organisations I am considering, but then I'd have to kill you. Oh, wait--that doesn't sound right.
Then, of course, there are the non-helping-people options. Not harming people, either, but just the things I was thinking about while trying to leave out the aid-aspect. I realised part of my trouble nailing down an answer to the question was because I've actually already been to all the places I would have been disappointed not to see if I died first.
Places on the tier below that ( i.e. places I'd love to visit if the opportunity allowed, but which won't make me feel unfulfilled if I don't) include Mongolia, Nepal, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Italy, Spain, and oh . . . maybe Kenya. I don't have an agenda for any of them, though. I mean, there are things you "just do" if you go to those places (Mongolia: look at yaks and ride wild horses--well, maybe they don't let tourists do the latter; Nepal: visit temples and ride elephants; Iran: try not to get blown up; Egypt: visit the pyramids; Morocco: um . . . what do you do in Morocco?; Italy: stay in a villa and drink wine; Spain: run with bulls; Kenya: go on safari), but there isn't anything out of the ordinary really--except that these things are all out of the ordinary.
Someday I would love to eat at a really posh restaurant and include a bottle of wine and all possible courses, but I wouldn't like to do that on a regular basis because I can think of all kinds of charitable organisations that I would rather spend the money on, and plus I actually have done that a couple of times--all of which were very enjoyable and memorable flukes. And also, you can do that without going anywhere exotic.
The thing is, I prefer community to tourism, and so I typically only visit places where I know people. This does have economic reasons, too, but I honestly think that even if I were independently wealthy, I would still want to travel to where I knew people, because I'd rather see how everyone actually lives in other places, than visit all the tourist hotspots. I heard some probably-19-year-old on the plane the other night talking about how her goal was to be all "worldly and well-traveled" and have a photo taken of her in every bar in every major city in Europe. Personally, I prefer being able to say things like, "I spent my 21st birthday stranded in a bungalow in central India during a monsoon." I like knowing a little about the different rules of etiquette that go with eating with one's fingers and how the rules change depending on the region of India that you're in. I like hanging out with the late-teens in the local pub in a Slovak village and letting them ask all manner of amazed questions when they find out from our mutual friend that, at age 27 (well, it was a while ago), I am a missionary but not a nun, and what do I believe anyway--and why on earth do I? I like walking down to a local non-Starbucks coffee shop in Santa Barbara and watching the morning rush and the kinds of people that are in there and feeling the city wake up.
The part of me that's at the forefront of my wanderlust says I would rather go back to a place I have already been, the top 3 being India, Turkey and of course London. Well, or maybe I'd trade Hungary for one of those. And if time and money were really no object, I'd not just go back to visit one of those places, but I'd try to relocate there.
The thing about second-tier tourist longings, however, is that they're probably worth pursuing, because you might find a country you just love which you would have missed otherwise. For example, I would never have known quite what "wild" means if I hadn't had a three-day layover in Iceland and soaked in the otherworldly scenery. And I never would have known that Budapest, Hungary, is one of my favourite cities in the world if I hadn't gone to visit friends there whom I had once known in London.
Anyway. Those are my thoughts on the question. What would you do?