This is really embarrassing to admit…. I didn’t always love travel..
When I was 10 years old, I would water the flowers for my retired neighbors while they were on vacation. Being the oldest of 5 kids and having young parents, our life was about building our family, our house, accumulating. Seven people require quite a bit of STUFF.
“Instead of going on a vacation, you could buy a new ~couch~. A couch would last for years, maybe decades, if the kids aren’t allowed to eat on it. A vacation is over so quickly and then there is nothing to show for it.” What a practical thinking kid I was!
Somehow, that all changed by the time I was 16. I wish there was a defining moment that I could look back on so I could have something inspiring to write about…. But I just grew up and got a touch less practical.
Right before my 16th birthday, I hosted an exchange student from Australia for 2 weeks. The night the Australians landed in Seattle, it was snowing. This was problematic for our Buick Station Wagon as we lived at the bottom of a relatively steep hill that was very difficult to conquer in the snow. Usually it required a running start from the bottom, my dad honking his horn furiously as he ignored the stop sign at the critical point where the hill started leveling out. One touch of the brakes would eliminate traction and the car would have to slide back to the bottom to try the ascent again.
So I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to retrieve the Australian from the school cafeteria after the groups 10pm arrival. But we made it, and then I had my very own foreigner at my house.
The most intriguing thing to me was that Peta had never seen snow before. Ever. What a weird concept! I mean, we don’t get tons of snow in Seattle, but usually there are a few flurries every year, even if there isn’t any measurable accumulation. And if you are desperate for snow, you can always drive to it! Not so in Australia.
By the time Peta was departing for her home country, we were fast friends. In fact, she invited me to come visit her. I called her in Australia with long distance rates on our land line (so 1989) to make sure that her family was going along with the scheming of their teenaged daughter. Indeed they were. So, the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I worked 40 hours a week at Bartell Drug Store so that I could buy my own $1,200 plane ticket half way across the world (those were 1989 dollars!). Quite a change for someone who used to think that a couch was a better investment than travel.
I wish I could say that visiting Australia changed my life and gave me the incurable travel bug. But I was actually disappointed. I felt like I was in Canada! Yeah, they drive on the other side of the road and say things weird, but they are Western! Many small differences, but not the culture shock or adventure that I didn’t even realize I was craving.
Then life happened to me and my family. And when I say life, I mean the real stuff like a paralyzing accident, divorce, a fatal plane crash and an unplanned pregnancy. Coping and survival were all I could do for a handful of years.
Emerging from the major life changes and graduating from college, I started to think about foreign countries again. And even when there was no practical way that I could ‘afford’ to travel, I found a way. To Italy with my best friend at 23. To Spain and Portugal by myself the following year…. and every chance that I could even half-way legitimize since then.
But I have never been out of the country more than three weeks at a time and my longest road trip in the U.S. was 5 weeks. I’ve basically lived in a 5 miles radius my entire life. For someone who has travel in her DNA, I was missing out on the experience of traveling long term, of slow travel, of becoming a regular at an establishment that wasn’t in a city where I had spent my whole life.
So, I’m starting what I have long referred to as Life, Part II. I was never sure what that life would look like, but it is starting to take shape and I am really excited about it. Practically obsessed, actually. I am going to create a new way for me to experience the world.