As far back as I can remember, my mom talked about her junior year abroad in Madrid, Spain with fond memories and a near-demand that I study abroad when I got the chance. I was too chicken shit to go to a non-English speaking country, which I deeply regret, but I got myself abroad in college, before, and after.
The passport that served me from June 2001 to June 2011 is a treasure of travel memories. It was my key to the world:
Dominican Republic (x2)
Czech Republic (x2)
Yes, many trips to England – what can I say? I fell in love with London at 20. And, of course, Russia was a once in a lifetime adventure given the current state of international relations.
I wish I’d used it more, but I’m not made of money, and neither is my mom, who financed many of those trips. She also paid for the ones before that passport, to Italy (x2), the Bahamas, and Mexico, not to mention domestic trips up and down the eastern seaboard and to Hawaii.
My first trip to Europe was to Italy when I was 18. I learned a ton of history, but I also learned that I love going to places I’ve read about and reading about places I’ve been to. Call it experiential learning, call it hands on, whatever. I love when history, literature, religion, and Hollywood entertainment converge with me standing somewhere, seeing for myself. You can imagine how this feeling intensifies when my favorite novelists and poets are involved. Haworth at the Brontes’ house before a ramble on the Moors? BE STILL MY HEART. Traipsing up to the Vale of Health to get a feel for what Keats’ surrounded himself with? Sitting on an Oxford campus graveyard, channeling Byron’s broodiness? And, of course, Dublin with Dedalus and Sligo with Yeats.
I did a May term in eastern Germany, following the footsteps of Martin Luther. Everything from my childhood in church was real. I got to hold a bible that was nearly 500 years old. I got to explain the theological sides of Luther to a group that was focused on his social and educational reforms apart from his wild departure from the Catholic church. So if you thought it was just about my adoration of literature, you’re wrong. It’s history too. Hence the trip to Russia.
There’s something magical about being in a place where history happened, sitting where someone was inspired to write something that stays with me, comparing the Hollywood version of something to what the facts bear out. All the better if it’s in a different country where I can try new food and talk to people who have another perspective.
Since becoming an adult, ie working full time (despite summer break), I haven’t traveled as much. This fact is painfully clear in my current passport. While the picture shows a slimmed down version of me, the stamps aren’t as happy. In fact, there are three trips to Canada, one trip to England, and one trip to Ireland. And it’s more than five years old!!! Five years in to the one from my 20s, my stamps were hoppin’. Now, wah wah wah.
Yes, there was a cruise to Alaska that included a stop in British Columbia. That trip was spectacular, not just because it was to celebrate mom being done with cancer treatments. Yes, there is my awesome trip to Ireland. Yes, there is the epic BC/Washington road trip of 2011. I’m not minimizing the trips that are on the records, rather lamenting that there aren’t more.
And tomorrow I’ll get yet another Canadian stamp as I head to Quebec City for a longer exploration. I was there for a few hours on a day trip out of Montreal. I like Canada just fine, but I’m hungry for some more adventures.
Now I hear the voice in my head reminding me that I know exactly what I want to do with my “gap year,” “time out,” “walk about.” I need to get booking.