Once again, I’ve travelled to what feels like the edge of the earth. From Dubai, my sister and I made the day-long trek to Canada’s West Coast, where my mom, older sister and nephews were waiting for a long-overdue reunion at the house we bought just over a decade ago.
While arduous, the flight from Dubai over Europe, across the Atlantic and through Northern Canada to Vancouver, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, does succeed at disconnecting me from my daily life in the Arabian Peninsula. With a time difference that literally spans night and day, I’m able to appreciate the holiday, far away from my hectic work schedule, that I will spend with those dearest to my heart.
On our first morning, which felt like night time due to the 11 hours of jet lag I'm trying to overcome, my two sisters – one older, one younger – and I were counting the countries we had collectively visited for work and pleasure trips so far this year. For the three of us, who spent most of our childhood years in North America and have travelled little for leisure, it was a surprisingly long list: Malaysia, Spain, Britain, Germany, France, Egypt, Singapore and South Africa.
My mom – who was heating some loaves and buns of her delicious homemade bread that she’d prepared in anticipation of our arrival – seemed entirely uninterested in our conversation. While she travels a great deal, her purpose in doing so is singular and always has been. She travels to bridge the distance between our family home in a Vancouver suburb, her daughters in the Arabian Gulf and her homeland, Egypt.
The thought of a leisure trip simply to explore a new land has never occurred to her. She hasn’t been to Europe, visited Latin America or traversed Asian cities, nor has she ever wanted to. For many years, much of the reason for this lack of travel was financial as she focused her attention on caring and saving for her daughters, reluctant to spend a spare dime on herself. But even now that money isn’t an issue, her desire to explore the world remains limited.
“God has made every place beautiful,” she often says. Her perspective is, I believe, guided by her unwavering faith in God. She knows with certainty that He will show her all that she is destined to see in this world and that she shouldn’t strive to become too consumed in accumulating possessions or spending large amounts of money on travelling to gratify her ego. “I have all I need when I am with you,” she says.
Travelling for pleasure is something new to me, as well. I took my first-ever non-work or family-related trip only two years ago. To celebrate my birthday, my younger sister and I travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, for four immensely enjoyable days. I previously hadn’t had the cash to spare for leisure trips, saving all of my holiday-time to visit family in North America.
Even now that I am able to afford to take these journeys, I find myself hesitating. While I do take pleasure in exploring new places, I'm inclined to view such trips are a privilege rather than a necessity. This year, I visited my dearest friends in Malaysia this year to attend a wedding, and took a short trip to Cairo for my birthday to witness the changes to my motherland brought about by last year’s popular uprising first hand.
But as I sit here in our family home – my nephews, mom, sisters and brother-in-law within a reachable distance for the next three weeks – I can see what my mom sees.
The greatest contentment is not quantified in the number of new cities and countries we visit, but in realising the value of the places inhabited by those dearest to us. When our loved ones are near, we don’t need to be anywhere in particular to witness the beauty of the entire world in one place.