This week I've been in Toronto visiting friends and family in a big city that I used to call home. Arriving at Pearson International it isn't as much a giant international terminal as a familiar place where I catch a ride with my Dad back to my old neighbourhood where even though it's all very different now, nothing much has changed. The airport pick up is something so practiced that we don't even have to discuss a meeting point anymore. We've perfected timing the de-planing text message and the 'post A' pick up. It's as normal to my Dad and I now as it was when I knew exactly where he'd be to pick me up from school as a kid.
I don't create schedules and I rarely know where I'll be sleeping, but between 3 sisters, extended family and a city of friends, it all seems to work out in the end. Sometimes I forget I have to make sleeping arrangements and end up crashing on someones couch because it's too late to drive back to where I stayed the night previous.
When I hang out with friends, we pick up right where we left off 5-8 months ago and when we're done we say 'see ya later' like I'll be around again tomorrow. My family loves seeing me as I do them, I never over stay my welcome and leave before we have enough time to drive each other nuts.
When I'm in The Beach, I stop in at old favourites to catch up on email or do some writing. I walk the neighbourhood streets knowing exactly where the service is good, and who always burns their bagels. I know who charges for wi-fi and where it's offered for free but with a two hour limit.
While I was in town this time, I took the opportunity to go see an author I like speak. While I was there, I overheard a couple talking about their house in White Rock which is a sub-burb of Vancouver. They went into great detail to explain exactly where White Rock was and I was surprised for a moment that the person they were talking to had never heard of it. It took a second to register that I was in Toronto (not Vancouver) before the persons confusion made more sense to me.
The author we were listening to had a few photos on stage with him of his recent trip to Thailand where he did a photo shoot with some giant cats (not the house kept kind). I smiled at the familiarity of having just been to that part of the world and knowing exactly where that photo was taken.
Leaving the book store, I made a phone call to confirm having dinner with a friend of mine that was in town from Montreal. We tossed some restaurant ideas around and I loved that we both could have an opinion despite neither of us living here.
I've been very lucky to have had some of the opportunities that I have. I had parents that enjoyed travel and so I caught the bug early. I've lived in four major cities across Canada and got to explore some of it for the first time as a teenager road tripping with other teenagers when competing with my horses. This of course gave me some foundation applying for a job with professional riders that took me on the road to and from Florida every year. Following that, I had a corporate job that required extensive travel throughout the United States and as such, was able to see as much of the US as I could handle (and all on the company dime).
Even though the world is a very big place to explore, by exploring it, my world actually starts to get smaller. By exploring the big city, the whole city become my home. Then, new big cities became just as comfortable to me. I spread my wings to explore another end of my country, and after living in four major cities over the years, the traveling in between them has made an entire country feel as small as my backyard. The professional experiences I've had, be it driving a truck full of horses south on I-75 or picking up the tab for a magazine publisher after our lunch meeting in Dallas, have provided me with a sense of comfort and ability to adapt - wherever I am.
After experiencing the familiar feeling of knowing the place in Thailand where the authors photo was taken, I have found that as an adult, I have the same sense about the world as I did as a kid when I realized how much further my street goes after it curves at the end of my block.
My life so far has allowed my "world" in Canada to become a small place where I run into friends and family from coast to coast. I hope my world continues to get smaller and some day I can talk about my friends in Africa with the same fondness and familiarity as my next door neighbours. I hope that I concur any fear and anxiety of exploring new places by understanding that at one time, the street beyond my driveway was once overwhelming and to uncertain to venture upon.
The Sherman brothers had a catchy way of saying it...
There is just one moon, and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to ev’ryone
Though the mountains divide, and the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all