Years ago I was awarded a scholarship - I can't even remember the nature of it - but as part of that scholarship I was invited to a recipient dinner. There were 3 of us. One of the other recipients and I got into an in-depth discussion because her study was around forensic-biology and her thesis covered a fascinating topic to me: isotope de/re-generation. Stay with me here.
Her thesis was something like this (it's been over 15 years): the human body is a sum of the objects and other human beings it comes in contact with. According to her research, as we walk through the world, we exchange isotopes with other objects and bodies: I sit in a chair and my isotopes transfer to that chair and the chairs isotopes transfer to me; I spend time in contact with another human being and we exchange isotopes. Pretty crazy and I don't know whether she proved it or not, but it made perfect sense to me at the time and it has made more and more sense to me over the years.
When someone asks me where am I from, this is a harder and harder question to answer. I was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchwan. Moved to St. Pierre, Manitoba before I can remember anything. Then relocated to Sundre, Alberta until I was 16. At that point, I moved to Calgary, Alberta, then Brandon, Manitoba, then back to Calgary then a couple of years later to Toronto, Ontario....then to San Francisco, California and now I live in Montreal, Quebec.
But that doesn't really quite cover it. I've made my home these places, but spend more than half of my time on 'the road' - traveling - to various places. And not just traveling...experiencing. Connecting. Often in ways that impact the way I look at the world around me. My brief trip to India changed me fundamentally. My couple of trips to Paris changed me profoundly. Every time I've set foot in New Zealand or Hawaii or in New York City, I have felt like I was at home. I belonged. And tonight, and over the past couple of days, I couldn't shake the feeling that I've been in Tokyo, Japan before. That I need to stay here. That this is me.
Every place I visit and every place I live changes me. Like the isotopes my fellow scholarship recipient discussed in her research, I feel like I physically absorb every single experience/place/person I encounter. I'm not a Canadian (though I'm a proud passport holder), I'm a Canadapaneuropindiamerican something or other. Some cultures, like Calgary, Toronto, San Francisco and now Montreal, I 'get' more because I've spent significant time in them. Others it takes me a couple of hours/days to feel a connection to. Others I want to learn more about, but the short experience has effected me nonetheless.
A piece of me remains in every single place I've been. And I've exchanged a piece of that place and taken it with me. This isn't merely travel. I can't reduce it to that. But there isn't really a way to succinctly describe it. I recently encountered a young man without 'roots' (proudly) who, when I asked where he was from, told me, "Nowhere...and everywhere." And I completely identified with him even though I have a solid home base in Montreal.
I'd like to run into that fellow scholarship again and ask her to test my isotopes. I'm sure they would tell an interesting story.