Printed Capris and Cheap Sunglasses
Traveling was considered a luxury that just wasn’t available to my family. Due to finances, family vacation was non-existent. I was invited on two separate occasions to join a friend’s family on their family vacations, however. These trips led me to my first camping experience, first time seeing an ocean, first time seeing mountains, first time horseback riding, first and last skiing adventure, and first time whitewater rafting. Not to mention, cave exploration and New Orleans’ Bourbon Street before Katrina! Wow – when I write it all out like that, I realize how fortunate I was to be a part of that. I’ll always be grateful as I hold some very fond memories from these experiences.
My dad drove me to small town Illinois twice to visit my nonna and cousins during the summer. One summer, I convinced him to allow a couple of my friends to join. We spent one night traipsing around St. Louis, Missouri. It was the big city compared to Sandoval, Illinois. I was a self-proclaimed city girl, after all! I had so much fun riding the elevator, shaped like an egg, to the top of the Arch. My dad had quite the fear of heights. When the wind blew and the arch actually moved (yes, it does that), he was intensely uncomfortable. My girlfriends and I bought matching printed capris and cheap sunglasses, soaking up the St. Louis summer sun. We rocked out to Sublime on the CD deck of my dad’s convertible, tying t-shirts around our heads to keep from getting wind whipped by our long hair.
A First Time for Everything
The first time my family and I ever vacationed together was after my parents divorced (go figure) and I’d moved to Los Angeles. I was visiting Kansas City one summer while my brother was living in Wyoming, so my parents and I rented a car and road tripped out there. We picked up my brother along the way and explored Yellowstone National Park for a couple of days.
We hiked, my dad and I leading the way while my brother stayed back supporting my mother, who was having a difficult time at such high elevation. Waterfalls and wildlife were a dime a dozen and Old Faithful did not disappoint. My dad was very much into photography at the time, developing his own photos on the latest in-home technology. It was nice to witness him engaged in something that gave him joy. I hold some very fond memories of that time in my life, as well.
Will Travel For (Insert Noun Here)
Today, I travel for many reasons. I travel because no one in my family really did or were able to. My mother went to Orlando one year with a close friend of hers. Another year, she went to Connecticut with a family that she was caretaker for. She had some of the most memorable and wonderful times in her life. This was evident in the sound of her voice, the smile that spread across her face, and the light in her eyes when she’d recount her vast love for the ocean.
She visited me in Los Angeles on two different occasions, not counting my college graduation. She was a wonderful travel companion, content and low maintenance. We shared a hearty appetite for seafood, a love of shopping, and a yearning to learn by engaging in conversation and/or customs. I enjoyed showing her my new home and attempting to convince her that she should make it her new home, as well.
All of these experiences were appetizers toward what I deem as my purpose rather than a luxury. Travel doesn’t have to cost a lot. It could be as simple as getting in the car and driving an hour and a half north because some guy’s ranch is decorated in colorful, glass bottles. Just quirky and off the beaten path enough that my hunger is satiated. Then, I drive home all for the cost of half a tank of gas because I packed a lunch in my cooler. If recycled decor isn’t your thing, maybe a large, stinky lake surrounded by ruins and graffiti strewn structures are.
The Path to Enlightenment is Through Buddha’s Nose
I travel to grow, to learn things about myself that I wouldn’t without the influence of other cultures, climates, countries, and people. I desire to expand my perception of the world around us and to share with those who are interested. The anticipation and the excitement of the unknown, alone, is enough of a reason to travel. I travel because I am able and willing to and life is short. In a little over two months, I plan to crawl through the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana in Nara, Japan. It is said to bring enlightenment in the next life should I be able to squeeze through it. I travel seeking, to some degree, no matter how great or little, enlightenment.