You’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?