These ladybug-inspired thoughts, coupled with the fact that lately I'm preparing for my own epic adventure, reminded me of an encounter I had about a year ago: I was at a party when I struck up a conversation with a young man who was patiently waiting for me to move out of the way so he could get to the boiled-shimp-and-cocktail-sauce at the buffet table. (Dude, it was good shrimp, and I was hungry.) He was young -- maybe 25, tops -- and after a few minutes of chatting, I learned that he was an aerospace engineer for NASA.
"So wait," I said, "you really are a rocket scientist?"
He smiled the weary smile of someone who has heard that question a gajillion times. "Yes, I really am."
We continued talking -- he was friendly, congenial, funny. Eventually he asked where I was from. "Trinidad," I responded.
"Huh," he said, his brow furrowing. "That's the Caribbean, right? Is it part of Jamaica?"
I smiled the weary smile of someone who has heard that question a gajillion times. "It's in the Caribbean, yes, but it's a separate country, and nowhere near Jamaica. If you think of the chain of islands that make up the Caribbean, it's the southernmost one. Very close to Venezuela, actually."
"Huh," he said again.
"Have you been to the Caribbean?"
"No," his tone became apologetic, "I actually don't like traveling."
"Afraid of flying?" I smiled, nodding empathetically. Despite the fact that I do it often, I hate flying as well.
"No, it's not that," he said quickly. "I actually have no problem with that. It's just ... I mean, why would I ever leave home? I love Houston. There's no reason to leave."
"Wait," I said. It was my turn to look confused. "I'm not talking about moving somewhere. I'm just suggesting a week-long trip to a new place. Like on vacation, you know?"
"Yeah, no," he insisted. "I can just stay home on my vacation days. I mean, I'll get on a plane for work, but otherwise, I really honestly don't see the point of traveling."
Here's where I admit that I wasn't doing a great job of keeping the incredulity out of my voice. "Hang on," I said, "you launch human beings into space, and you don't see the point of traveling?"
"No," he said, firmly. "I really, really don't."
I dropped the matter, and we went on to discuss other things, but I've never forgotten that conversation. Perhaps the disparity between our outlooks stems from our cultural differences: maybe when you're born on a small island, like I was, the drive to get out and see the rest of the world is more imperative than if you're from a larger country. Or something like that. Regardless, all I know is that I love to travel. I'm driven to travel. I don't spend a lot of money on things like high-end clothes, or fancy cars, but I do love a travel splurge. I love researching places before I head there, meeting and connecting with locals, listening to their stories, photographing everything I see. I live for it.
I am, I suppose, more ladybug than rocket scientist.
(And as I write that last sentence, I suddenly realize that the young man with whom I was speaking at that party would likely vehemently agree, but probably not for the same reasons I've described here. )