You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world. ~ William Hazlitt
When I was a child, my family did not travel much. My parents owned and ran a deli and it was very hard for my parents to leave their business, so I only have a few memories of traveling as a child. There always seemed to be a “situation” when the entire family traveled together. For example, there was the time we missed about six flights traveling to Omaha, Nebraska for a wedding. My father was NOT happy about that, even though, surely, he was the person who made us late! Then there was the time we almost totaled our brand new, customized van in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Luckily, only the van was hurt in the accident. There was also the time we spent a weekend in Upstate New York and my father tore the cartilage in his knee. There are only three vacations that I can remember with the whole family, and they do not stir up the best memories. On one occasion, I remember travelling to Disney World with my mom and my sister (my dad stayed home to run the deli). The Disney vacation might have been the best ever because at the height of their fame, and our obsession with them, we randomly bumped into Menudo (a heartthrob Latin boy band from the 80’s) filming a Pepsi commercial. As much as this experience is considered one of the highlights of my life (yes, yes it is), I don’t believe this ignited my love for travelling to new places.
When I was a teenager, I was lucky to have a friend who went away to college. Where I grew up, not many people went away to college. I did not go away either, but I did go to visit her at both of her away schools. The second school she attended was in Arizona. When I traveled to visit her in Arizona, someplace so incredibly different from where I had grown up in the small town of Brooklyn, NY, I couldn’t wait until my next new adventure. These adventures would remain small until I hit my twenties.
In my twenties, I traveled to more places than I can list. Islands and cities, historic places and poverty-stricken areas. Each time I visited a new place, I changed and I grew. You can read about places and things in textbooks, but seeing something with your own eyes is very different. For example, you can see a picture of Vermont’s evergreen trees covered with snow in the winter, but you cannot hear the snowflakes hitting the needles of the evergreen tree perfectly clearly beyond the complete silence in the background, nor can you feel the cold, wet snowflakes land on your cheeks and melt immediately upon contact. It’s the experience of the place that you miss if you haven’t actually set foot there.
Visiting London, Paris and Venice blew my mind. The historic sites almost brought me back to the time period when they were created. London allowed me to see firsthand how America had begun. In Paris, all of the art classes and textbooks I had seen came to life. I was not an art major but, seeing Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” standing two feet away from me was awe inspiring. And Venice, ah Venice…arriving in San Marco Square to a string quartet that played in the square made me feel like I was in a dream. The Basilica took my breath away. I couldn’t believe how much work went into creating these buildings without having access to the modern machinery we possess today. My trip to Europe changed me to the core. It made me realize how small we are in time and in the universe. It also made me realize how lucky I am to live in America, despite it’s imperfections. I grew tremendously after the six weeks I spent in Europe.
In my thirties, travelling changed drastically for me. I became grounded with children and all the responsibility that comes with raising a family. The vacations now revolve around my family, and that’s a blessing because it means my dreams of having a family have come true. However, it’s just different from travelling before you have children. The beauty of my vacations now is that I get to see my kids grow with each new adventure. Every time we go somewhere new, they gain a new level of experience. And although I know how it feels to experience this growth myself, it is exciting to witness the growth in my children.
So my advice to everyone is YOU MUST TRAVEL! It nourishes your soul and makes you grow. It makes you realize your dreams and shows you your blessings. It also allows you to experience the beauty and diversity that exists outside of your point of reference and comfort zone. I believe that when you travel, you become tolerant of the differences in each country, culture and people that you encounter. And quite frankly, what we could use more of, especially right now, is more tolerance and understanding.