One New Country Every Year

By: David Gladish

In a past life, we were wandering dirtbags, traveling solo to mountain ranges untouched, villages off the beaten path, adventuring with reckless abandon. With age, a new life blessed my wife and I with new purpose and vision. Now, we have a simple goal: to visit one new country every year for the rest of our lives. Three years running, having gone to Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, and Denmark, we now have a son to include in our goal. Ari will grow up going to a new country for at least 18 years (if he wants to stop after that, so be it).

In a world of choices and endless decisions, I find it comforting to have consistency, but I have never been one for schedules or unbreakably rigid plans. What I long for is traveling for adventure, newness, and discovery, thus why I love our goal. Within the criteria of visiting one new country every year is a lifetime of possibilities, but it is finite and not overwhelming with options. Our goal is modest. It gives us something to look forward to each year, something we will do no matter what. It provides the backbone for our dreams and gives us comfort, a feeling of hope, knowing we have a goal to fall back on or look forward to.

I’ve always been torn between two sides of travel. On the one hand, going to the same place year after year makes so much sense. You really get to know the heartbeat of a special landscape, beach rental, or second home. It might be comfortable, easy, reliable to know that your favorite spot will be there for you, waiting patiently for your return. This way of traveling is a little too claustrophobic for me. My traveling bliss is seeing something with child like wonder and I find it easier to see the beauty in the world through first time experiences. Perhaps this is a flaw; I am jealous of those that find contentment in routine.

The other side of travel as I see it, is going to new destinations. In going to one new country every year, we are not looking to change the world. We don’t have lofty goals to bring aid to the less fortunate or end political turmoil. By simply visiting one new country every year, we will be exposed to life changing people, places, and experiences outside of our bubble. Change will inevitably happen in our lives, and we have the chance to change the people who we interact with in those new places. Imagine if we all had this goal. If each year, everyone grabbed their passport and set off to a new destination, outside of their country borders. That would be changing the world. A world where a 60-year-old has been to 60 different countries in their lifetime, is a world of more tolerance and acceptance. Having heard so many languages, visited culturally significant places, and dinned in new cities, would automatically increase our understanding of the global community and our sameness. We can learn about a place so easily now, through movies, online media, and news. But we truly know a place when we have been there firsthand.

There’s no guarantee of world peace if we all had this goal. Some differences may be insurmountable, and to see that which we do not agree on, up close and personal, can be maddening at times. But to observe other countries and the people within, for who they truly are, rather than assuming, reading, or watching something about a place and its people, would ensure clarity and more understanding. Tolerance, acceptance, compassion come with time, but firsthand knowledge is a start.

As I watch Ari grow in his first year of life, I see so much potential. I see opportunities for learning, feeling, seeing, being. Having a goal of going to one new country every year as a family gives Ari the opportunity to see, do and learn on a macro, global level. It is a unique challenge for our family that will have its ups and downs, but the rewards will be paramount.

About the author: David Gladish is a Seattle based adventure writer. He seeks to convey stories of introspection, analysis, and to expose the narratives of the less known, the quiet side of exploration. Read his work at www.davidgladish.carrd.co.

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