Growing up, I was fortunate in that my immediate family lived within a 120-mile radius of home. Major holidays were spent hopping on the “big road” (AKA interstate) and alternating between my maternal and paternal grandparents’ houses. Aunts, uncles and cousins were only a short car ride away as well, so it was years before I did any “real” traveling.
When I was sixteen, I scrimped and saved my money from my crappy fast-food job, researched airfares (by calling airlines listed in the phone book – the humanity!!!), and begged my parents to let me visit my aunt and cousin in Chicago. As I sat in my seat over the wing with my nose pressed to the glass – this huge metal bird gaining speed as we barreled down the runway – my stomach dropped as the nose lifted to the sky. This was the moment I became a traveler.
That’s not entirely true. That was the moment I decided I wanted to become a traveler. To this day, however, I’m still a tourist. This is a fine distinction – one that mainly lives in my mind – but a distinction nonetheless. I love tourist destinations; I adore taking those same photos that everyone else has and don’t even talk to me about hop-on, hop-off bus tours! Someone once told me that those hideously tacky bus tours were a great way to get an overview of a city, plus you get a free map of the good stuff. They were right. I continue to work on getting off the beaten path, avoiding the tourist destinations and submerging myself in the spirit of a place. To paraphrase, someone once said “Travel like you’re going to return” – which is to say, don’t try to do everything in one fell swoop. I fail at this – miserably – every single time.
Since that first United flight into ORD, I have adored travel. Cross-country roadtrips, Caribbean cruises, trans-oceanic flights – I love it all. Someday, I’ll get to do it again. Ideally, I would find a job that allowed me to travel. I’d settle for any job that allowed me to save money to use my vacation time to visit a faraway place of my choosing.
As far as Chicago is concerned, “someday” will come later this month. HRG has a conference to attend at the end of the month, when her ride fell through, I volunteered to go with her and help with the drive. I can’t wait to visit the Windy City again; with any luck I’ll be able to take in a game at Wrigley, meet up with some friends, grab a Goose Island Summertime and snap some photos.
[Though off by a day, this post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt for June 3: Tourist Trap]