My family didn’t travel much.
In my preschool days, we took a couple of road trips to Arkansas to visit family and had an extended stay in Houston while my dad visited his eye specialist.
I have vague memories of these trips. I remember being scared while touring a wax museum in Hot Springs (and immediately wanting to go through it again), cooling off on the log ride at Magic Springs amusement park, and feeding koi at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Houston.
While my school friends were taking vacations to faraway beaches or DisneyWorld, most of my travel involved long drives to take my older sisters to college. I spent hours lying in the back seat of the car, watching the tree tops fly by or staring up at the stars.
Even though I wasn’t exploring the world in person, I was able to do it through books and school. I envied the fictional family from my 3rd grade social studies book who was taking a road trip across the United States. I spent hours reading about different cities, states and countries in our old set of World Book encyclopedias. I hadn’t been to many places, but I had visited faraway lands in my imagination.
I finally got my first taste of travel on a 7th grade school trip to Washington, DC. Looking back, it seems like we spent more time on the chartered Greyhound bus than in DC, but it was amazing just the same. We visited the White House, Ford’s Theatre, Mount Vernon, The National Zoo, Arlington Cemetery and a three Smithsonian museums. I certainly didn’t appreciate what I was seeing as much as I would as an adult (one highlight for 12-year-old me was a visit to a Maryland mall), but I was immediately bit by the travel bug.
A few years later, I headed to New York with my oldest sister. It was my first time on an airplane (on the now-defunct TWA airlines), and I couldn’t control my excitement. I loved the museums and architecture but was scared to ride the subway because I was sure I’d be mugged. (I wasn’t, which was a disappointment. Wasn’t that part of the New York experience?) Being from a small town, I was also amazed by the overabundance of GAP stores. New York seemed like nirvana to this Louisiana girl.
The next year, I made my first international journey to London with a couple of dozen students from my high school. I barely slept a wink on the plane, which led to my taking a brief nap in the British Museum’s cafeteria. I experienced my first taste of potential terrorism as we evacuated the King’s Cross underground station due to an unattended package. (It ended up being nothing, but an IRA bomb had detonated at London Bridge station a few days earlier, so everyone was on high alert.) I saw sites that were older than I could ever imagine. When I’d been in DC, I though Mount Vernon was old, but it’s incredibly young compared to Dover Castle and the Tower of London. I fell in love with England, specifically London, and I knew that I would return one day.
In the meantime, my oldest sister had also become a traveler. She taught college courses in Europe during the summer, so I jumped at the chance to join her one year. For six weeks, I crisscrossed Western Europe thanks to my Eurail pass. France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Monaco, Italy, The Netherlands. They are all amazing places with their own personalities (and their own pre-EU currencies). I swam in the Mediterranean in Nice and threw a snowball at Stubaier Gletscher. In Vienna, I walked around the gardens where Marie Antoinette played as a child; in Versailles, I marveled at the house where she lived as Queen of France. I discovered my love of Weiner schnitzel and meringue cookies. I wanted to ignore the real world and stay forever, but we all have to wake from a fabulous dream at some point.
So why do I travel?
Because I love visiting new places and old favorites.
Because it encourages empathy for other people — regardless of where they live.
Because I can practice old hobbies (like photography) and learn new ones (like bread making).
Because it breaks up the monotony of my humdrum life.
Because I just can’t stop!
I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like, but I’m always planning a big trip — even if it might be a year or two away. In fact, I sometimes think planning a vacation is more fun than actually take it!
I’m sure I’ve bored my friends talking about my favorite destinations, but I not only like to learn new things but also share my knowledge with others. I’m certainly not a travel expert, but I hope I have some tips and suggestions to share with you that will encourage you to start traveling or enhance your future vacations. It might even help me broaden my own horizons and visit some new places myself!
So, why do you travel?