It is becoming more and more common to hear, “I’ve done Vietnam and Cambodia,” “I’ve done Europe,” and other such similarly ludicrous comments.
How can you ‘do’ a country or a continent? How can you ‘do’ a town even? You cannot. You cannot see every place, you cannot have every experience, you cannot know every person. No matter how much you do, there is always more to do and it is never complete. Thus to write off something as ‘done’ is unfair.
I note this as during my time in Belfast, I spent a night in a hostel, where I overheard the conversations of travellers competing on where they had been and what they had done. It seems that many people like to write off a place as ‘done,’ as if it is beneath them – another notch on their passport, if you will. Life, for many travellers, has seemingly become a competition – a bucket list of credentials that they then flaunt over others. It seems that no matter what you do, they will have done more, or something better. I believe an appropriate term is ‘one-uppers.’ They one-up everything that you have done by claiming they experienced a greater quantity or quality of sights – or they belittle where you have been.
What really troubles me is that when you become entangled in these battles of ‘doing’ places, you begin to lose satisfaction as you aim only to check places off your list and life becomes an ever driving competition. It does not matter how many countries we have been to, how much time we have spent in a place, or what we have done, because life is not a competition. If life is a competition, let it be only a competition with yourself. Otherwise you can always find someone who has done something better. This then leads you into the ‘don’t be sad because someone is sadder than you’ dilemma which is as ludicrous as saying ‘don’t be happy because someone is happier than you’. [We cannot and need not be the best at everything]
I spent a few weeks walking across Iceland with my brother recently. Have I done Iceland? No, I could go back for a whole lifetime and I would never be able to do it all. But I have my experience and I am happy with that. If I was to go again, my experience would be different.
Often I get asked where I am going next as I have lived fairly nomadically for the past few years – as if I go from place to place to check them off. What I have found, is that travel for me, has become a by-product of what I want in life. Since leaving Korea four months ago, I went to Norway because there was a farm I wanted to work on, I went to Iceland because I wanted to walk across it and experience certain landscapes, I went to Greece because I wanted to warm up after Iceland, spend time with my friend, and squat in an abandoned building. The places I went simply facilitated my desires. I would go back to each country because a country means nothing and is little more than an imaginary line that we draw on a map – both within and outside that imaginary line, there are infinite possibilities.
It is fine to have experienced a place and desire not to see it again, but it cannot be ‘done.’ Nor should you put other people down for what they have and haven’t done.
Life is not a bucket list that can be done or checked off. It is an ever changing and continual series of occurrences and interactions. Life cannot be done. So to all people who say, “I have done that country,” I say, “No, you have not. You cannot. It is too big and you are too small.” Even the Vatican (the smallest country in the world) is ever changing. You cannot do a country.
Life is not a competition. If it was, it should only be with ourselves.