It’s a tricky business trying to record all the places I have visited. Trip Advisor gave me the opportunity to place pins on a map of the world for all the cities and towns I have visited in the course of a long life acquiring a cross-cultural understanding. It was quite bewildering.
The options were presented in batches of nine destinations, without any geographical connections. It would have been easier to have all Spanish towns together, then those in Italy, in India, in Australia, and so on. But for reasons of their own, Trip Advisor mixed them up randomly. Las Vegas was partnered with Tokyo and Venice, Berlin and Chicago with Hammamet. Where’s that? Glad you asked. I didn’t know either, but it’s in Tunisia.
Racing through the selections, I found myself making deals with myself. What counts as a place visited? I once spent a few hours in Nairobi airport. Another time the ship I was on docked at Madras (Chennai these days) for the best part of a day. Should they count?
Then there were places that seemed so familiar, like Florence. Had I actually been there, when I was visiting Rome, Milan, Pisa and Livorno, or was it just that I have read so much about the place? And what about places with similar names, like Whitley Bay and Whitstable, Hove and Hayes? Both or just the one? In the interests of total honesty, where should I draw the line?
I live in Bromley in Kent, so it hardly seems fair to count Dartford, which is just up the road. But how is that different from Oxford? And then there are all those Calellas and Playas in Spain, and the multitude of tiny seaside hamlets along the coasts of Majorca and southern Portugal, where one might have stopped for a meal while on holiday. Should they count?
Where was it in Wales that I went, was it Llangollen or Llandudno? And why did Clonakilty in Ireland seem familiar? I remember being in Mullingar, but it wasn’t on the list. Nor were Brussels, Barcelona, Calcutta, Delhi, Dubai, Laval, Toronto, Geneva, Dubrovnic, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Sydney, which I had to add manually to my score.
I lost track of the places I had already scanned, and wondered if they would reappear in different combinations, like the multiple choices in personality tests, to catch me out. Or to establish a cross cultural pattern.
In the end I totalled 165 towns, but knew there were others I had forgotten, places in England and others from my early years in India, that scarcely merited inclusion on a map of international travel destinations. Oh Lord, I’ve just remembered some more in America and Europe … excuse me while I consider their merits against those already pinned on my map.
Much have I travelled in the realms of gold.