Maps May Be Flat, but the Real World Is Round — By Jennifer Shipp
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Maps May Be Flat, but the Real World Is Round — By Jennifer Shipp

At Petra in Jordan, Lydian and John walk down some stairs. It’s a bigger complex than most people realize.

Today I have my maps and travel books spread out across the desk trying to make “solid” plans to go “somewhere”. I am keenly aware of the spherical nature of the planet when the time comes to choose a destination for our family. I’ll never see it all. How do I choose?

As soon as I find a place, I think of another place that is (relatively speaking) nearby that I want to see as well. Ukraine is close to Romania, Greece, and Egypt. Why not see them all in one shot? And once I get to Egypt, why not keep going and see the entire eastern edge of the African continent? I mean, really, why not?

Sometimes I wish I had reasons to not keep going and going and going. But I don’t. No extended family, a few cats that I can take along or leave with a friend. Why not keep going? And going? Around and around.

A one-way ticket is a tenuous answer to the question of, “why not?”. I can answer the question every day. Day after day. Being exhausted is common on long trips. And exhaustion can lead to cravings for home, but what if I merely found home-like places while abroad rather than buying that ticket to come back? I don’t know. We’ve always had round trip tickets and a date to return home.

So I’m looking for this perfect place to start. Right now there are cheap tickets to London on Icelandair. An extended layover might be in order. Iceland isn’t the kind of destination that really calls out to me, but I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to at least lay my eyes across its landscapes briefly if I’m going to commit to a long flight to get there.

We rented a car while we were in Iceland. The white car was our rental. It was easy to drive in Iceland because many of the rules of driving were the same as the rules in the United States.

London doesn’t trip my trigger either really. Too much pomp and circumstance for my taste, but we can see it en route to more exotic areas of the world.

Vacation rentals glitch me out a little. They require advance planning and what I really yearn for is something more spur of the moment, yet comfortable, cheap, and private. It’s remarkably difficult to find this combination of conditions in countries where people don’t speak English. Our attempts to locate comfy lodgings as we travel along hasn’t always had good results. For example, in Turkey we slept in a very cold room with bloodied sheets above a fish shop once. Once we stayed in a hostel that flooded with shower water overnight. We had to tiptoe to the bathroom through an inch of water. But it’s hard to wander when you’ve booked a vacation rental in advance. I try to strike a balance by booking the vacation rental and then wandering within designated areas (within 12 hours of the rental property usually).

So Iceland then? And then London? And then Ukraine? That’s a tentative plan. (But Egypt and Israel are SO close by and…)

I can’t help it that John, Lydian, and I are nomadic. I feel like I need to put down roots on Lydian’s behalf, but she likes to travel too. She never really revolts against it. And what can I say? The world is round…Things are arranged in a sphere rather than in a straight line for a reason. Because those of us who want to wander are able to just…wander. Endlessly.

We can roam if we want to.

Near Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2014, the year before the earthquake.

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