Dear Santa Claus,
I’ve been dodging the question “What do you want for Christmas?” for over a month now. It’s a question that jumps out from around bushes while taking my afternoon walk and sneaks out from under the table at dinnertime. I’ve all but put my voice on auto-answer with “Nothing. I’m content without stuff.”
I know that people want to be able to walk into the mall and exchange a bit of plastic for an item that will make me smile on Christmas morning. They may even have a great idea for something I might enjoy. But the truth is that, the more I travel, the more I realize how little I actually need … or want.
So I’m writing to you today to apologize for not sending you a long laundry list of goods like I did when I was a kid. I remember those letters filled with extensive lists of book and CD titles and the oft-practical item like a pair of slippers or new hoodie sweatshirt. But times have changed, and so have I, so if you insist on dropping something off under my tree this year, I’d like to request the following five things:
- We aren’t all so lucky to be able to visit the incredible sites in our own backyards. This is one of the reasons I’ve partnered with Karikuy to found the Karikuy-Haugen Fund, which will help send Inca Trail porters to Machu Picchu. Though we’ve had a few hiccups in our first few months, we believe strongly in our mission and are working hard to ensure that a handful of porters will visit Machu Picchu in 2010. All I really want for Christmas is to send a porter to Machu Picchu.
- I know a lot of my friends have never had the chance to travel to even a fraction of places I’ve been able to see. And while I understand that some of them honestly have no desire to go much further than their hometowns, I would love for them to feel the magic that comes with the first moment of discovering a new place. I would love for them to be able to have their senses overwhelmed with the sound of a foreign language and the taste of mole or kimchi in their natural environments.
- This year I would like to hit up a few European countries. I know the dollar sucks, but I’ve barely scraped the surface of Western Europe. On my shortlist of things I’d like to do this year: Ride a bicycle in Ireland and practice my German in Germany.
- I understand the United States places travel restrictions on certain countries because there are legitimate safety concerns, but so many of these restrictions are political reactions with no sound reasoning. Countries that rely on tourism are severely affected by these travel warnings, so please bypass me on this request and go directly to the State Department where you are more than welcome to spread the joy of common sense. Let’s start with lifting the ban to Cuba. From there, we can only improve our international relations.
- With my recent travels to Honduras and Mexico, I am ashamed to admit that I am one of those Americans who bumbles my way through Spanish-speaking countries with English. Spanish speakers shouldn’t have to struggle through their second language of English in order to accommodate me, so this year I’d like the gift of the Spanish language. Gracias in advance.
So there you go, dear Santa Claus. My long-awaited Christmas list in all its glory. Thanks for spreading the holiday magic … and safe travels around the world!