After leaving our apartment on Oak Street at 8:00 a.m. and now, ten minutes before noon, when I am sitting in cafe crowded with bikes and laptops in the West End, after driving from Vancouver across the Canadian-United States border to our rented mailbox in Blaine to collect a check from a writing client in Boulder, while my husband is in his office on Slack with teams in Delhi and San Francisco, I am both craving Indian for lunch following a recent conversation with our building’s property manager, a woman from Afghanistan, in which she asked my Mexican-native/Canadian citizen husband for help in finding a flight to Delhi where her nephew from Turkey will visit the Brazilian Embassy to apply for a tourist visa to travel to Brazil, and thinking about the political correctness of a feature on “tribal tourism” in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald I found minutes ago stacked near the cafe counter by people, like me, waiting for their names to be called and their espressos to be pulled.
I have been awake for less than six hours and my mind has landed on four continents, my husband’s car searched, my photo ID compared to my present face. I am now next to a woman who speaks English to me and in French on her iphone. I am part of the wave of shoppers lining up Saturday mornings at border crossings, gig workers in Dallas accounting for Hindi holidays and travelers who take terrible coffee over good WiFi any day.
It’s no longer good enough to have a valid passport from at least two countries. You need Nexus. You need to know the conversion rate. You need TSA pre-clearance. You need a bank account with U.S. dollars. Three mailing addresses are not excessive. Next Saturday, let’s cross the border, but be back in time for dinner with Monica and Steph.
I live in an amazing time when travel, around the block or across the globe, inspires, educates and humbles. On the wall behind my home desk, I have pinned a world map, letting me look at Mozambique while Gmail loads. The red lines create countries, the blue lines show rivers, the black text gives names, and it looks easy to push Africa between North and South America and then flip Australia under India.
It’s also easy to become geographically disoriented by picking up your mail. I am not confident in my ability to handle and appreciate, on a daily basis, bucket-list itineraries and globe-trotting conversations and ambiguous social norms without becoming lost, confused about when I am a citizen and when I am a permanent resident and when I am a visitor and when I am home. That I am not confident in, but I am certain that my IDs are ready and visible at the right moment.