As I was walking through O’Hare a couple of weeks ago about to take a 30 minute flight to Indianapolis, a wave of excitement came over me. In just a couple of weeks I will be back at O’Hare amidst the hustle and bustle of increased travel, but, this time, with Rick and boarding a much-longer-than-30-minute flight direct to Rome.
The anticipation of a long, adventurous vacation is almost as riveting as the vacation itself, like a young child awaiting Christmas morning when the miracle of Santa has been complete. That moment, combined with a book I am reading as well as a conversation I had with a potential partner this week at work, got me thinking. Why do I love to travel? Why is travel important to grow? What has travel taught me?
And as I relaxed in seat 11a of a tiny regional jet blowing through clouds that looked as yummy as truffle mashed potatoes, about 18,000 feet above ground, I let my mind take me back to my travels and the moments that made me who I am today. That shaped me. That challenged me. That mesmerized me. That made me laugh. And cry. That changed me forever.
It all started when I was a teenager and had never flown before in my life. The family I nannied for invited me to L.A. for a week-long vacation to help with the kids and also have a little fun, too. As we explored Venice beach, my eyes were awakened to a new west-coast culture. Different ethnicities. Gay pride parades. The sun covering our bodies as we splashed in the pool. And a tattoo parlor where I forewent the ink and decided on a belly button ring. Yes, this was the outcome of my very first flight across the U.S. of A.
And the time I had absolutely no money and decided charging a Spring Break vacation to London on my Visa credit card was a great idea. As I traveled to visit friends and my boyfriend, I was charmed by the Brits. The greasy fish, chips and Guinness beer. Challenging my taste buds with wine that didn’t come out of a box or 3 liter jug. Taking a train to Bath, England to see the Roman Baths and then deciding to order more wine at lunch, eat more great food and dance on the tables belting out Coldplay’s Yellow until wee hours of the night and missing the Roman Baths altogether. Yes, I went to Bath and didn’t see the Roman baths. Looking back, it was a great idea and the debt is gone and those incredible memories with my friends, exploring the rich history and culture of London will forever stay with me. That trip taught me about taking risks and being spontaneous for sure.
The wedding for one of my favorites bosses and dearest friends in Newport.
One of the most pivotal travel memories was when I went to Turkey 6 years ago with my ex-husband. The juxtaposition of this trip is incredible and warrants a full post. In the meantime, here are the Cliffs Notes. After years of pain, tears, pride, ego, confusion and a love that we couldn’t move on from, yet couldn’t get to work, it was on that trip, the evening of my friend’s wedding, three hours from Istanbul on a vineyard right off of the Mediterranean Sea with a full moon and light breeze you never wanted to end, drinking wine that was only and exclusively produced at the vineyard, watching a Whirling dervish spin and spin and spin…it was that night. My head, too, was spinning and spinning and spinning. I couldn’t be married to Jake anymore. As I danced alone, smiled for the crowd, my heart ached for the mess that was ahead. I had to be out of the marriage.
I travel to see family. To eat traditional dim sum in Seattle.
And the mission trip to Costa Rica. My first time traveling alone. It was shortly after I was divorced and craved escape, craved to serve, craved to grow, craved to move on. I partnered with Global Volunteers, I packed a backpack filled with North Face gear and braved facing myself, away from my world, in a new world, in hopes to heal. Each morning I would wake up with my stranger-turned-friend roommate to the sound of a rooster crowing. I would run, jog or walk down dirt roads before breakfast. I would pray. I would talk to God. I sought Him so much on that trip. I confessed to four new friends the failed marriage I took part in breaking. I painted. I dug. I spoke Spanish as if I had been speaking the language for years. And continued to pray, journal, read my bible and ask God for restoration. For forgiveness.
Getting a tour of the White House with my boss, Lori, and colleague, Suzanne (of which I consider both of them more than colleagues, but friends).
Taking a long weekend for my birthday to Paris. Paris had been on my list for years and years and years. The discovery of French food, the beauty of the Eiffel Tour, the markets with coffee and chocolate aromas that leave you salivating. The pleasant train ride to Versailles which led to lush green trees and history you only read about and never think you could witness in this life. As Rick would spend hours and hours at the museums, I would spend hours and hours wandering through the 20 arrondissements, stopping for a crepe or a glass of crisp Sancerre.
The shopping at the quaint French boutiques in Quebec City…the trip that got me even more pumped up to go to Paris!
Witnessing our dear friends wedding in Kolkata, India. Experiencing hospitality like no other everywhere we traveled in India. Crying, getting sick, riding an elephant, riding a camel and having a monkey trying to steal money from my purse. The sights, smells, sounds and tastes that will forever be engraved into my soul.
Visiting our friends in San Diego. Overlooking the sun as it sank before our eyes right into the Pacific ocean as the kids ran around the house, the dogs barked and played. The hosts, our dear friends, creating a meal that came directly from their hearts. As we sat around the table, clinking glasses, I couldn’t help be joyful by the familiarity of old friends and overwhelmed by the love they have continue to show us, despite living a couple thousand miles away.
Heated fights and tears shed with Rick in Orlando, my first time to Disney. Ironic?! NOt sure I felt it was the most magical place in the world, that’s for sure.
Oysters and lobster rolls and citrus ceviche and steamed mussels in a white wine sauce, accompanied by my dear friend Alex. Realizing that Starwood has provided me with colleagues and more importantly, with friendships that likely will last a lifetime.
The trip to Spain, alone. The trip that to this day, is one of my favorite vacations I have ever taken in my life. As I walked into the W Barcelona, sitting right on the Mediterranean with the sun glistening off of the windows, I smiled and felt at home. Working for a hotel company does that to you. There are certain hotels that do give me a sense of warmth that only home can bring. The W Barcelona is one of them. Witnessing Antoni Gaudi’s surreal architecture at Sagrada de Familia. Enjoying sardines and cheese and wine and fried balls of yumminess with my dear friend Jen, her son and her mom at midnight in Madrid, in a tight alley only lit by strung lights attached to the brick buildings. Sipping sangria and eating tapas al fresco while journaling and appreciating God’s world. Buying a beautiful canvas of a Spanish woman, her dress black and the background shades of red. On the street. From a college student. For $30. Being lonely. Being scared to actually have space in my life to think and face fears and journal and pray.
A road trip throughout Vermont with my colleagues where we did Falconry in our business suits and I was able to make a pit stop in Bennington, Vermont (Bennington is my maiden name).
From Copacabana Beach to Boston, Massachusetts, my heart is a passport stamped with memories and emotions that bring life to my soul. I am not sure that I can say I was born to travel, but through the years, I can say I have learned to love to travel. That I save my pennies to get on an airplane. I travel the world for great art. To learn. To listen to music. To face myself. To pray. To eat. To be alone. To be together. To be.
I embrace new cultures, both near and far, to connect with humanity in ways I couldn’t in my home. I visit friends, family and make memories over a glass of wine watching the sunset. I will photograph markets and plates of food and hot, fresh coffee and museums and vignettes all over the world. I will travel solely to visit a new hotel.
For me, travel is now in my blood. I long for it like we all long for love. And I am beyond thankful and appreciative that I can travel. Thankful to have a husband that shares this same longing. Thankful to work in the travel industry at one of the leading global hotel companies in the world. Thankful to have a boss who supports me and my travel adventures. Thankful to God for creating this beautiful and magical and challenging world that I have the honor and privilege to witness in my lifetime.
Why do you travel?