It probably started when I was very young. My grandparents would return home from some time away and a couple of weeks later, there would be another big black photo album sitting on their coffee table. He’d always print out an itinerary and clip it into the front of the binder. On the side of the album, in black and white labeling, there’s be a pithy title for their latest trip.
It may have been their trip to Indonesia and Komodo Island that captured my imagination the most. I was practically obsessed with dinosaurs in my youth and had never imagined that such beasts could be seen if you just had enough resources, time and determination to find them. The centerpiece of their “library” room was a beautiful globe, just next to the pipe collection that had taken his father’s life.
But it wasn’t just the photos; it was the nature videos, the hikes, the bricks at the zoo with all their grandchildren’s names on them, and the curious bottles of liquor with absurd plastic-molded characters. It was the growing collection of picture atlases, National Geographic magazines, framed photos from far-off lands, AAA Trip-Tiks and promises of adventures to come. With their children largely consumed by the toils of raising kids of their own, my grandparents busied themselves with plans on how to open up the world for us.
At age 10, my first big trip finally arrived. My grandparents took me and my cousin on a 3 week tour of the American Southwest. We flew to Denver, rented a car and drove through Aspen, Vail, Ouray and Telluride, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Petrified Forest, the Meteor Crater, Santa Fe, and Carlsbad Caverns. We conquered Pike’s Peak and Mount Humphrey. We spent a single day in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.
I think that one-day trip into México set a wonderful precedent. It wasn’t acceptable for us to be so close to a life-changing experience and another country AND NOT visit it. We went a bit out of our way, but in doing so, at age ten, I’d been on a single vacation in which I hit 5 states, 1 foreign country, and probably a dozen national parks. A few months later, a quick weekend trip to New York City seemed rather dull in comparison.