Ui mai koe ki ahau he aha te mea nui o te ao, Māku e kī atu he tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
Ask me what is the greatest thing in the world, I will reply: It is people, it is people, it is people!
When I first began traveling, visions of Big Ben, Moulin Rouge, and Venetian gondolas danced in my head. I wanted to see the sights of Europe; tour Anne Frank’s home in Amsterdam, marvel at the splendor of Michelangelo’s The David in Florence, and view Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. So I did these things. But after I hit the “biggies” in Europe, and prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and saw the Opera House in Sydney at sunset, I started to crave something different in my travels. New countries popped onto my traveler’s wish list that were never there before. I wanted to go to Argentina and India and Spain. I wanted to know more about the people, and how they made up the culture – how they laughed and danced and ate and mourned. My hunger for glamorous experiences decreased while my desire for authentic interaction increased.
So now that I’m in Norway, it’s not really about what I’ve seen. I’ve only been to Oslo once, I briefly visited the West coast a couple months ago, and I barely ever venture beyond the farm or Hamar, the closest “city” with a meager population of 30,000. And yet, I love Norway. I will always remember my time here with fondness. It’s not because of the natural beauty (although it’s stunning), and it’s definitely not because of the weather or the food. But it’s because I’ve loved to hear Norwegians sing their prayers before dinner, and I’ve loved to watch them get excited about Christmas and the first snowfall, and I’ve loved the way they’ve taken me into their homes and their hearts.
Living and working and playing with people from at least 16 different nations, in addition to Norway, has been an amazing blessing. Sometimes my heart swells when I think about this family I’ve been welcomed into here at Grimerud, when I think of the diversity of personalities, laughs, and gifts that spill out of this place like treasure. Everywhere I’ve gone in this world, I’ve made friends I want to take with me the rest of my days; collecting them like a stone rolling down a hill. I’m overwhelmed when I think of the countries I will still visit, the places I will live, the people I will fall in love with there.
It’s not that I’ve evolved into some completely altruistic traveler. I still want to go on a safari in Africa and dance in a Greek taverna and bungee jump in New Zealand. But if you ask me what is the greatest thing in the world, I will reply: It is people, it is people, it is people!