On my Facebook page I have a map that puts a little push pins in the cities I’ve visited. It’s quite cool, actually. Until I looked at that application, I hadn’t given much thought to how many places I’ve seen, but once I started clicking, I was sort of amazed. Plus, it brought back so many memories of so many places. My first big trip abroad was in high school when we flew to Spain to visit my dad. As a Marine pilot, he was gone on a Navy ship for six months practicing landing helicopters on the ship. (And other things, I’m sure. That answer has held me for this long, so I’m just going to go with it.) Rather than miss her chance to see some of Europe AND her husband, my mom packed my brother and I up, pulled us out of school for a bit, and hauled us across the Atlantic. The trip got cut short because of the hostage situation in Beirut. My dad’s ship went straight there, and my mom changed the plan and took my brother and I to London. I remember watching the news, seeing the picture of that ship sitting off the coast of Lebanon, and knowing my dad was on it.
Anyway, I digress.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the experience of new places, different cultures, and the perspective that travel brings. After that first taste of travel, I longed for more. When the opportunity to study abroad came, I jumped. I spent the second half of my junior year of college living in Austria and traveling like a crazy fool. I loved it.
When I returned, I knew I wouldn’t stay still for long. Although I always thought I’d graduate, live in New England, get a nanny, and send my kids to a prep school so they could be ready for the future, I really wanted to give the west coast a try first. So after college, when most of my friends took jobs in Boston and NY and DC, I accepted a position out in San Francisco. I flew into San Diego, picked up my company car, and drove up Pacific Highway to begin my life. I stopped in LA, Malibu, Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel, and more. I was amazed by the beauty and how different the coast was on this side of the country. I was fascinated by the differences in the culture—within our own country—of the east and the west. And in time I realized, slowly to be sure, that being ready for the future didn’t have anything to do with nannies or prep school. Perspective.
I’ve moved several times since then, and never did make it back to live in New England, although we’ve visited more than a few times. Kids slowed travel a little, but not much. (Quitting my job certainly slowed it more!) In general, I’ve found that kids will rise to the occasion and expectations we have of them. My kids have been packed into cars and planes since they were tiny, and of course there were ISSUES at times, but nothing insurmountable. Nothing worth foregoing travel altogether.
A few years ago we took our boys to Great Britain for two weeks over Christmas. Before we left, a friend of mine was embroiled in a whole big social country-club-people-not-speaking-to-each-other mess. Let’s leave the fact that these are grown women for a minute, because that’s just a whole different topic. But what I remember, so distinctly, was being in this tiny little town in the Cotswold region of England and thinking about my friend and her troubles, and about how LITTLE it all matters. No matter how important or popular we are, there is whole world out there, with other important, popular people, who don’t give one hoot about our little corner of the world. Perspective.
Or, what about the time we took the older two boys (the only two, at the time) to San Francisco, where I truly did leave my heart fifteen long years ago. As I walked through my old neighborhood, holding my sweet five-year old’s hand, he looked up and said, “Mommy, San Francisco is much more cooler than Michigan.” Oh, so right you are, young one.
And later that same week, when we passed by the man living in the cardboard box, my five-year old was distraught, and we talked about it for days. We had the whole homeless and hurting and helping others discussion probably much earlier than we would have otherwise. But seven years later, he still remembers that man. He still thanks God for our house. Perspective.
And so when we planned our most recent trip, to Yellowstone, I expected it to be nice, yes, but I wasn’t prepared for the stunning beauty right out there in Wyoming. I’ve been to England, France, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, and so many more. I had more than fifteen address changes before college, and at least half as many afterwards. I love Connecticut in the fall, North Carolina in the spring, and California any time of year. But I didn’t have any perspective on Wyoming whatsoever.