It surprises me to think that I hadn’t considered traveling abroad until I had wandered my small nook of the earth for two decades. I’d brag about it sometimes. Me? I haven’t been more north than New York City, no more south than Florida (and does a trip to Disney at age 6 really count?). As a college student in Pittsburgh, I’d marvel that I could almost daily break the barrier of my own personal westerly expansion. Today I made it to Point State Park – wow. Today I made it to the most west I’ve ever been! It was as if I could put my hand out, and go beyond the bubble. I think that’s when it hit me.
Now, I had known from a young age that I wanted to live in a city (oh, there will be much more on that later, friends.) But, one gloomy, rainy or slushy, and likely miserably cold Pittsburgh day, the absurdity of walking in straight lines and right angles simply shattered me. I was a drone. I couldn’t remember the last time my foot touched something other than pavement, hard concrete. I could trace the lineage of any given day according to my class schedule. Monday? Two blocks East on Forbes. Left turn on Bigelow. Right turn on Fifth. Left turn Tennyson. Repeat: Every Monday. Left. Left. Right. Left. Right. Right? It felt wrong. That semester, after a series of what now seem like panic attacks, I visited the study abroad office. And never looked back.
Every year when I was a kid, my parents took me and my two brothers for a one-week, Saturday to Saturday summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. These were the best weeks of my life. I looked forward to them so much that as early as Monday of the actual vacation week I’d start to lament the impending end to my bliss. One year, my father took me parasailing. This was so many years ago that I do not remember any particular details of that day. I do not remember why my mother or brothers did not accompany us. I do not remember the boat ride or whether we went tandem or separate. I do not remember what I felt as I floated up above Isle of Wight Bay, whether I was thrilled or bored. I can’t say if I had any life-changing epiphanies. I especially do not remember any of our fellow parasailers that day, but I do remember that my dad struck up a conversation with a couple. What I do remember about this day in particular is what he said to me as we walked back to the car after our miniature adventure. “Did you hear that? All they do is take trips. Sounds like what you want your life to be someday – a professional vacationer.”
Fifteen plus years later, my dad’s words echo in my brain. Those words accompanied me to the study abroad office and onward to the Caribbean, to South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and finally now, they have brought me to this blog. I don’t really know what the next step is, and I’m even more certain that if you arrived here looking for a how-to, you’ll be disappointed. I can only hope that many years from now I can look at this, the first entry of my blog and say to myself: Self, you did it. You’re getting paid to travel. Until then….