The Effect of Going Nowhere

I want the world to impact me.

I have not been places in the world yet, but the small corner of the world I have seen has had it’s impact on me. It may not be in the same way that others who have covered a larger swatch of the world have experienced, but the impact I’ve felt in Nipissing and other places is real. I was only really clued in to how the world around me has impacted me after a simple conversation.

My girlfriend said to me recently that on every trip that she has been on, she has left part of her soul. The concept seems so genuine to me. The fact that taking these trips bring such intense feelings led me to realize something about my own journeys: I’ve had none. I have been essentially nowhere.

Let me define nowhere for you. I have very rarely been outside of the province of Ontario. The culture of Ontario despite it’s large size and different populations is pretty homogeneous. I have been on one trip to Alberta for a week to attend a leadership conference and I’ve been to Michigan occasionally. These would not be what I would call “life changing trips”, though that would be due to the lack of change of cultural scenery. What I learned in Alberta was actually quite helpful for my development as a student leader.

Back to the issue at hand. If you were to make a diamond out of the furthest in each of the directions that I’ve been (excluding Alberta) you’d end up with a pretty small diamond on the face of this earth. As a Geography major, that fact is confusing to a lot of people. “How can you love the world, yet see none of it?”

I do love the world. I wouldn’t label myself a tree-hugger, but I would say I try to be a global citizen. How can I lay claim to this without travelling the world? Without experiencing other cultures and trying these new experiences? I would agree. I can’t.

I can’t say I’m a world traveller, but I do have the thirst for knowledge. While I may not have had the opportunities to experience other cultures at home or abroad, that’s a fault of location, timing, and desire. I’ve gone to mainly single culture schools, I have a family that doesn’t travel much abroad, and I’ve never really explored the options of travelling abroad myself. It’s a collection of circumstances that have lead me to this point.

However I also recognize it is not too late for me to experience these things. If I want to explore the world around me and start feeling my toes in the sand instead of just reading about how warm the sand is in a textbook, I can do that. Instead of just reading about these experience, I should start to experience them. That’s a personal challenge I can take on myself.

What really got me though was how my girlfriend had said she left part of her soul in these places. That didn’t mean that it was lost forever. No, she had participated in more of an exchange. She left part of her soul there, but gained something irreplaceable in return: the memories of her experience in these places.

Have I left pieces of my soul anywhere? Is my soul wholly in tact due to my lack of cultural experience? I knew that the experiences I had were not the same as hers. I learned form hers, soaking up the stories and pictures, wanting to gain knowledge by association. I yearned to have the empathy and passion that she had for these trips where she helps people yet feels the most benefit of all.

I took a long time to reflect on that question, but I can honestly say that in another way I’ve left my soul places as well. The context for everyone is different; even the concept of the soul for everyone is different. However I can confidently say that there are pieces of my soul left behind in some places. My interpretation of it is a reflection of the amount of experiences you’ve had in a place and the value on them that you put onto those.

I have no definitive cultural experiences that have enriched my soul. That’s something to work on. I can be confident in saying though that once I leave Nipissing University, a chunk of my soul will remain here. Nipissing is home, and is the place where my most tremendous growth has taken place. It is where I’ve met some of the most important people. It is where I’ve learned to grow up without being a grown up.

Nipissing is not the only place where I will leave pieces behind. My hometown has part of it. My high school has another. I’m sure that as I grow older more places will take parts of it as well. Some of those may be international. Some may simply be the places in which I am home.

When I say that these places have a piece of my soul, I also must say that I’ve gained much from these places. I’m a proud Canadian and a proud Nipissing alumni. These cities and this university have a place deep in my heart that will never leave. These have defined me so far, and will always be a part of me no matter where I may go.

Going nowhere is something I’d like to fix. I’ve seen so many lives enriched by taking these trips and chances to go to different cultures in far away lands. However I no longer lament my lack of travel. I aim to fix it, but I also know that my pieces of my soul rest in the things I hold dear. They may not be far away, but they are far and away the most important places to me. Find those places that when you experience them, they take a part of you and return something wonderful in return. Those are the places you are meant to be.