Thursday, April 26, 2007
I got my first passport when I was a baby. Must have been just barely over a year old. Actually now that makes me wonder, at that age, how long is a passport good for? Anyway, I would guess that I've flown someplace every year of my life and it's only increased in amount over the years due to my insatiable wanderlust. I'm sort of an addict if you will. I'm hooked on cultures and constantly jonesing for a fix.
When I was a child, I'd fly with my parents and brother, which if you've read any of my other posts you can imagine the luxurious travels of 2 grad students and their kids. Needless to say we sat in the back of low budget airlines, keeping watch over the goats and chickens. I still get a kick at how normal it was to allow smoking on a plane, and how by the end of an 8 hour flight you'd hardly be able to see the exits or the lavatories. Comforts aside, my favorite part of the flying experience was chatting up the cute stewardesses (that's what they were called back then) with my boyish charm and getting not only to vist the pilots in the cockpit, but would undoubtedly return to my seat with those fabulous wings pins.
I realize that many people consider travel a luxury and when I'd say 'yeah, I'll be in Greece all summer', that would earn the 'oooooohhhh, that sounds amazing!' response. In my eyes it was just normal. I was going back to Greece to spend the summer with my family. Ironically, I was jealous of the kids that got to go spend a week at some crappy summer camp, rowing around a muddy pond and fishing or whatever. I guess I took the trips for granted. What I also took for granted was the exposure to different cultures, art, languages, food and lifestyles, that remain foreign to many. Being raised by grad student parents, we always had people of all ethnicities coming through our student housing, so again, this all seemed normal to me.
Now that I am older and I hear people say things like 'passport, what do I need that for?' or 'oh, we're waiting to travel once the kids are grown up', I just cringe. The impressions that this type of immersive exposure can create or do to shape not only you but your child and their impression of you, is just priceless. I emplore everyone I know to get a passport, get on a plane and just go. The eye-opening that happens is unquantifiable and the transormation that occurs to your psyche is irreplacable.
I still have that collection of wings that I amassed as a kid and I was truly heartbroken when the airlines got so tight that they stopped handing them out anymore. I thought about starting a collection of barf bags at that point, but it just didn't have the same feel.
At 35, I've hit 4 of the 7 continents, so in my opinion, I've still not seen much. With that said, just getting out of your "world" and seeing just one place that makes you feel like you're the stranger, is like no high you'll ever have. At that point, leaving the place you are becomes irrelevant. You've given your soul wings.