Are you asking yourself “Where the heck is Malta anyway?” If so, you’re not alone. This little known island is one of those mystical (seemingly mythical) destinations that don’t always appear on a map.
I often take it for granted that I can travel so freely with my American passport. I’ve been welcomed into the borders of over 50 countries and have never been declined a visa. Thankfully my particular passport offers many freedoms. I often wonder how my life would be different if I carried a different passport, maybe one from a smaller country that was more difficult to find on a map.
Consider, how do you explain your origins when the country you call home simply doesn’t appear on a map at all? During my stay in Malta I met a lovely gentleman who found himself in just such a predicament many years ago. While traveling internationally to mainland Europe he was held up by an immigration officer who did not recognize his Maltese passport. He was taken into a holding room where he was asked to point out his country on a map. This man who had lived for 50 years in Malta pointed to an empty spot on the map – in the blue of the Mediterranean Sea just south of Italy – where his home country should appear. “Here!” he exclaimed. “I am from here! There is nothing there but this is where I am from!” Thankfully he managed to persuade the officials to grant him entry into Europe and he later made his way home to Malta. He even traveled abroad again, though perhaps on later trips he stashed a map of Malta inside his passport, just in case.
This lesser known Mediterranean island gained fame recently when the Jolie-Pitt clan took up residence there while Papa Pitt filmed World War Z. I ventured into Valletta and wandered through the cobblestoned streets where the crew was filming. I enjoyed many beautiful sights (and a pint of a local Maltese draft) while I the explored historic walled citadel, but alas no sightings of the Brad or his beautiful family. Though the local paparazzi seemed to be on duty as either Brad or Angelina smiled up at me every morning from the pages of the Times of Malta.
I read a beautiful article about a surprise visit that Angelina made to Lyster Barracks, a refugee detention centre in Malta, where she met with refugees who fled Libya. A glaring reminder that not only should I feel grateful for my ability to travel the globe so freely, but that I should find even deeper gratitude in the solace that I’m leaving my country purely to experience the joys of the traveling, to indulge my xenophile nature and to tame my wanderlust; not to flee my country as a refugee and be forced to seek asylum in a detention center that closely resembles a prison barracks. With a heightened appreciation for the freedom of my travels I set out to explore this small island, perhaps the most beautiful island you’ve never heard of…
For a photo tour of my Maltese journeys click on the slideshow link above.
To learn more about Angelina’s work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in Malta visit the Times of Malta.