The Moral Dilemma Created By Traveling The World
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist
I never imagined this would happen…
I understand that travel changes our perspectives. I know it challenges our comfort zone. Traveling the world comes with joyous hellos and tearful goodbyes. But, there is one, truly, unexpected, huge, painful, part of world travel I never expected. Just this week, while watching the South African Springboks challenge the New Zealand All Blacks at rugby, I didn’t know which team to support. From soccer to rugby, my allegiances are now forever compromised.
My solo world travels started in 1986 when I lived with a host family in Normandy, France. From then onwards, I became a Francophile. I spent a semester studying in Paris, then a year working there, and five more years working for a French company in New York. I went to France every year, sometimes several times a year, until the pandemic.
First It Was France
During my first year of full-time travel, I visited my French host family just in time for the FIFA World Cup. It was only natural that they were my favorite team in the world, and I, in my tri-color wig, cheered them to victory against Croatia. I felt like I was in the right place, at the right time.
Then Came Peru
In 2019 I went to Peru. I enjoyed pisco sours, Machu Picchu, and survived the high altitude. I tasted some of the most magnificent food of my travels, met amazing people, and fell in love with the country.
I hadn’t expected to be in Lima for the finals of another FIFA World Cup. It happened to be Peru vs. Brazil. France was already eliminated, but, what if they hadn’t been? Who would I have supported? Who would my cheers have been for if it were Peru vs. France? I shudder at the thought.
It was standing room only throughout Lima. This was the first year, ever, their team had made it to the finals. I magically found the last seat available, in a tiny pizzeria, and ended up cheering with all the people of Peru, watching their team in the finals.
You may know, or perhaps you just looked up the results, that Peru lost that match to Brazil. Despite the loss, I have never seen a city come so alive and be so happy celebrating the win of second place. It was a special, and momentous occasion and I’m so happy I was there to celebrate with them.
South Africa Took Me By Surprise
On August 1st, 2019, I flew to Cape Town, South Africa. An experience that forever changed me in so many wonderful ways. I felt a connection to the land, as if I had come home, even though I had never been. I made many friends, and was introduced to the Springboks, rugby champions of the world.
I continued to follow their games as I traveled throughout Southern Africa, and was in Portugal when they played in the World Cup finals against the UK. I of course donned the Springbok jersey bequeathed to me by a friend in Cape Town and cheered on my beloved Springboks as they went to victory, exchanging messages with friends in Cape Town throughout the game.
And What About New Zealand?
I landed in Christchurch, New Zealand, February 21, 2020. I expected to stay for three weeks. Eight months later, I visited friends in Auckland and went to my first All Blacks game. They beat Australia. I was brought to tears by the Haka, and shared in the shouts and proud cheers of all the fans.
This past week, the All Blacks played the South African Springboks. It was torture. I didn’t know who to support. Do I root for the team that connects me to the most visceral experience I ever had in my travels, or do I cheer on the team in the land that has harbored me and and kept me safe and become a second home? I felt paralyzed as I watched the game progress. All the while seated next to my flatmate, who happens to be the uncle of two current All Blacks players. No pressure there. The score teetered by mere points in one direction, then the lead was stolen by the other, the whole way through. (It was an excellent game, to say the least.)
Why Choose When You Can Appreciate Them All?
It was a great game, but, in the end, I found myself cheering for the team that played the better game. This time round, it was the Springboks. In reality, I cheer for all the teams. Seeing Argentina play, where I spent four months in 2019, brings me so many happy thoughts. At the end of the day, each team connects me to the wonderful places I’ve been, and rekindles so many memories that I have to cheer them all.