Friday, March 4, 2011

Groomed To Travel

Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in this week's Travel Talk On Twitter. I selfishly chose to miss both session to attend a Pilates and Yoga class. What can I say, other than I take my exercise classes seriously. However, as I read through some of the chatter on the topic, "Traveling As A Kid," I couldn't help but reflect on my childhood travels and how they impacted where I am today--a person who has spent more than half her adult life traveling and living abroad.
In many ways, I think I was groomed to be a world traveler. My story is not like many  that can be seen and followed in today's media where parents give up everything to travel the world with their children, providing them with a global education.
It all started with an old book that told the story of Thomas Stevens, the first man to ride a penny-farthing around the world. After reading the account, my father couldn't fight the desire to follow part of this historical figure's footsteps, or, perhaps, I should say pedal strokes. It didn't hurt that my grandfather just happened to have the same model of bicycle--A Columbia 50-inch Standard--sitting in his garage.
I was just shy of 4 years  when my father began his epic journey that would take him from San Francisco to Boston. The transcontinental ride lasted 49 days and I was there for all 3,400 miles. Of course the ride was too daunting for a small child, but my mother and I had a road-trip of our own in our Volkswagen Bug. Our role was to provide my father with physical and mental support, contact local media, and set up our daily camp--we only slept in motels for 5 of the 48 nights. This early experience in my life taught me the true meaning of physical stamina and showed me how to follow one's dreams.
Not long after our trip across America, we left our home in New Mexico for the Midwest. As a young child I quickly adapted to my new home, but it was a difficult time for my mother who had never been away from her "homeland." This was a time when flying was a luxury and the long pilgrimage for her to see her family was made overland, mostly by car; but one year we took the train. Oh what an exciting experience that was for a seven year old. I remember feeling so important as we sat in the dining car being served as the cornfields of the midwest passed by our windows. Unfortunately, the return trip was filled with sorrow as my mother was once again faced with leaving her family. But as we sat on that train with the burlap sack of green chile and my purple elephant piñata on the seat next to me, I realized that a small part of home can be replicated through traditions and foods. A lesson I still carry with me as an adult.
Over time, the road trips between Indiana and New Mexico became monotonous and my desire to become autonomous  became stronger. On one of our final trips, I decided to sacrifice the company of my parents and make the journey alone in the back of our covered pickup truck. I was on my first solo adventure! Actually, I didn't make it the whole way, for the final leg across Texas I sat up front. However, for a 10 year old, two days alone in the back of a pickup felt like a huge accomplishment.
In my pre-teen years, we returned to New Mexico, but traveling didn't stop for me. As an only child, I was often sent to spend time with cousins over the holidays. It wasn't always possible for a ride to be arranged so I learned to travel by bus from Albuquerque to Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Even though I was introduced to the bus driver and placed at the front of the bus by a family member, I became an independent traveler by the age of 13,
My preadolescent travels notwithstanding, it  was at the age of 16 that I really decided that I wanted to see the world. I had hit a dead end at school and was not doing so well. My parents were at wit's end, and it was my father who came to the rescue. Rather than try force me into the right decision he suggested they raid their life savings and send me on a ten day school trip to Europe so  I could see what really was out there. As I sat on the Champs-Élysées eating a croissant I knew what I needed to do.

1 comment:

  1. Me thinks you are cheating just a bit; as I recall, you were accompanied by our pet dot, Weezle on that trip across Indiana, Missouri, Texas, etc....