My college's Faculty Research Committee just granted my request for a research grant to travel to Syria. I haven't been this excited since I received a letter of acceptance to grad school.
I devoutly believe international travel is crucially important, and now I finally get to live up to to my own beliefs. I'm fling into Dubai, and will spend two days there before going on to Damascus. In all, I'll probably be gone about 2 weeks. I plan to see the most modern (Ski Dubai, here I come!) and most traditional (the soukhs) parts of the Arabic world. Given that my Arabic consists of knowing the alphabet, and a handful of words (street, house, coffee), I should be wonderfully lost and confused.
I haven't travelled internationally before, although I've been in 47 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. (Canada isn't international, for an American, it's just our 51st, but un-united, state, where they mostly speak the same language, and the biggest difficulty is figuring out how much that liter of gas costs per gallon). Amazingly, I occasionally get students who've never traveled out of Michigan and don't have any interest in it. I don't have any interest in them, either. On the other hand, I met with a prospective student yesterday who's already spent 4 months in Thailand where she did an internship with the UN, and she's still in high school!
My wife's father is from the Netherlands, and her mom is from Indonesia. My wife--Johanna--has visited Europe many times, including a 6 week trip with her best friend when they were in their early 20s. My kids have already traveled from East Coast to West Coast, including Alaska. Two years ago we did a 4 week trip that included visiting Denali, taking an Alaskan Cruise, then renting a van and driving slowly back to Michigan. 4 weeks, and the kids were perfect little travelers, loving every minute of it. We hope to send them to study in the Netherlands, staying with cousins, when they're in high school, and I'll refuse to pay for college if they don't study abroad. My wife and I have tried to set a great example for our kids, and I can't wait to shop in the soukhs for exotic gifts for all of them.
Damascus, one of the oldest continuosly inhabited cities; the Mediterannean; the Euphrates; Christian monasteries in the mountains, within a deeply Islamic country that is officially secular. I'm so excited I can hardly sleep.