It’s a small world after all

It's a small world after allYou’ve got the Disney song stuck in your head now, haven’t you? Sorry about that. Yesterday I watched the video of our long-ago trip to Walt Disney World, and I’ve had the tune playing on a mental loop ever since. The only reason I’m inflicting it on you today is because as I was desperately trying to replace that annoying little earworm with something — anything — a memory surfaced. And I feel like sharing.

I was at a “Welcome to Singapore” coffee morning, so recently arrived in Asia that I was still a little jetlagged and nearly fainting from the heat. The room was filled with a diverse group of women, all sporting the same deer-in-the-headlights look I’m sure was on my own face. I said hello to the young woman sitting next to me, and noticed she had a Canadian flag sewn onto her backpack. Soon we were engaged in that familiar expat dance: the WhereAreYouFrom. She led.

“I’m from Toronto,” she told me.

“Oh, me too! Whereabouts?”

“Well actually, it’s a city just outside Toronto.”

I nodded. “I say I’m from Toronto, too. It’s easier than trying to explain where Mississauga is.”

“You’re from Mississauga? So am I! What part?”

“City centre, about five minutes from City Hall.”

“Me too! I’m just east of Maple Road.”

“Yeah, so am I, on Garden Street — do you know it?”

Her eyes widened. “What number?”

Turns out we lived on the same street, about ten houses apart. What an incredible coincidence in a world this size: flying 15,000 kilometres from home only to end up sitting next to a neighbour from the ‘hood. We both said, “It’s a small world!” at the same time, and started laughing.

At the time, I really did think of the world in that way: smaller than it used to be. Or maybe it just seems that way, since global air travel and globalization in general have made traversing the globe — physically as well as mentally — easier than our great-grandparents could ever have imagined.

I like to look at it another way, though: The world may be shrinking, but my world has expanded dramatically. Over the past 30 years or so, the boundaries of my world have been pushed back to include the faraway places I’ve lived in or visited, and even farther thanks to the books I’ve read, the people I’ve met, and a nifty little tool I like to call “The Internet.”

What do you think? Is the world a more expansive place? Or is it a small world after all?


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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11 Responses to It’s a small world after all

  1. Similar thing happened to me – I recently met someone here in Dubai who coincidentally lived a few doors down from me on my street in Houston! Very strange, indeed. Small world, for sure! 🙂

  2. gkm2011 says:

    I think that the world is shrinking but the part where I feel welcome and comfortable is expanding simultaneously!

  3. Sine says:

    Our world for sure is expanding in that we are making the pond much bigger in which to swim, and the pool from which we select acquaintances is expanding exponentially. We basically have so much more choice than our parents and grandparents did in that regard. But since one can only “handle” so many friends, the “losers” are our neighbors, who in our grandparents’ days we would have all known. It’s funny that you met a woman from down the street from you in Singapore, but if this had happened about 50 years ago you would have already known her. My two cents:-)

    • Maria says:

      You’re so right, Sine. But it was easier to know your neighbours way back when. 50 years ago my neighbourhood was mostly farmland; now it’s densely populated and nobody seems to stay in place for more than a few years. A couple of weeks ago I introduced myself to my new next-door neighbours, and they made it clear they weren’t interested in being neighbourly. It’s sad.

      • Sine says:

        I had the exact same experience when we first moved here to South Africa. Which is why I guess I’m glad I live in the age of social media where I get to pick out the nice people instead have to put up with grouchy neighbors. And I’ve met and made friends with people who are much more diverse and interesting. The danger though, I guess, is that with social media people gravitate too much toward the likeminded, i.e. only read newspapers that reflect their views etc, because we don’t have to put up with the grouchy neighbor anymore…

      • Maria says:

        I have another neighbour who brings me homemade treats all the time, and they’re fabulous. So maybe it all evens out in the end?

  4. Russell says:

    Why, that’s a tricky one, young Maria.

    The more I travel, the more cities, countryside, culture, history, food, drink, life and living that I see… and so the world seems vaster than I had originally believed it to be.

    But then the more I travel and see, smell and hear, then the smaller the distance and size that everything inevitably becomes. Odd that.

    What’s even odder is that this is the first time I’ve been able to comment on your blog for quite some time – let’s call it Internet Explorer issues #thisbadworkmanalwaysblameshistools

    • Maria says:

      I have to stop reading things so quickly. At first I thought you were blaming your stools, which is something I don’t really feel qualified to comment on. Glad to know that your stools are, in fact, blame-free.

  5. It’s so true! I was on a bus in Bangkok going from my hotel to the airport coming back to Phuket at Christmas and the lady sitting next to me was from my home town. She was just finishing a Thailand vacation and headed back to Canada. Just goes to show…You really have to mind your Ps and Qs when you’re traveling.
    Happy Trails,
    Anne 🙂

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