Thursday, October 18, 2012

How Do We Define Where We’ve Lived or Traveled?

About a year or so ago when I was setting up my Google+ profile (still pretty quiet over there!), I had to fill out the box for “Places lived,” and I wondered: what does it mean to “live” somewhere? After some thought, I ended up selecting Indianapolis, Ind., (where I was born), Plano, Texas, (my hometown), Arkadelphia, Ark., (my college town), and San Pedro, Costa Rica (where I studied abroad for a month), but I still wondered why these four towns made the cut while other places I had traveled didn’t.

Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto
My last breakfast in Costa Rica
I ran into a similar dilemma with the social travel website Where I’ve Been (see this blog’s travels page for my map). On that site’s map, you can color-code U.S. states and countries depending on whether you’ve lived there, traveled there, or want to go there one day. This opens up a different can of beans, since I’ve flown into airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, and Philadelphia, but never actually visited Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, or Pennsylvania. To make matters worse, my family and I accidentally drove into Montana for a few minutes while visiting Yellowstone National Park a few years ago, but we realized we were driving the wrong way before we got out of the car.

So how can we say when we’ve really “been” to a place or truly “lived” somewhere? Here are some criteria that I think we can use to answer this question:

Traveled

* Stepping outside: this involves getting out of the car, the bus, the train, or the airport and breathing in the air, walking around, talking to local people, and taking pictures

* Eating: this can include picking up snacks at the gas station or dining at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant

* Staying the night: whether you sleep in a hotel, a hostel, a tent, or on a couch, I think it’s safe to say you’ve been there

Lived

* Spending an extended period of time: my college roommate and I talked about this and we both settled on at least 3-4 weeks in the same place for studies, work, or volunteering, but we enter a gray area when we start talking about “slow tourism”

* Being a “regular” somewhere: being able to go into a bar, café, or restaurant and be recognized and on a first-name basis with the owners

* Doing chores: for example: washing your clothes, cooking for yourself, and sending and receiving mail

* Having local friends: when there are people who live in town that you hang out with regularly, be they locals or expats

Does these things above affect your own travel lists? Or you do have your own ways of figuring out “where you’ve been”? Comment below!
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