As a military family, my parents, brother and I have been able to share many traveling experiences together over the years. From vacations to family visits, most had a purpose. However, out of every planned holiday overseas, one spontaneous landing in Spain remains prominently in my mind; my reflections upon it help to structure my life to this day.
On a flight home from Washington, D.C. to Lajes Field, Azores one Christmas, my brother and I awoke to the news that our plane had to make an emergency landing “here, somewhere in Spain.” A concerned seven-year-old, I was confused and worried, but only expressed myself in the form of incomprehensible tears. I had realized, most insignificantly, that I was not going to sleep in my own bed that night.
When the plane landed, my family and I stepped on to a cramped bus to begin our adventure. The town I could not name to this day, but according the photos and anecdotes of my family, it was a beautiful Spanish village rich in color, thick grasses, and farmland. To some, it would be a charming retreat to paradise; for a seven year-old child missing her school friends, it was a scary, strange world.
Little transportation was available, and money was tight. It was a concept I could not grasp and I wondered constantly if I was stuck forever. Surely, to the rest of my family more in tune to the actual situation, it was not quite as intimidating. I, however, quickly shut myself off from this new experience. For the remainder of our stay, I often remained in our room and browsed the television channels. I drew and colored and learned the art of Yahtzee, but never once expressed desire to explore or observe any local culture. Until we arrived home several days later, this lonely seven year old, ordinarily outgoing and bright, was an uninterested couch-potato. As a child, I gained nothing from this experience.
It was not until later that this expedition provided insight into my life. Reflecting upon it now as a lover of travel and hands-on experiences, I see that opportunity as one well-missed. It relates to many aspects of life when we are put into situations or places we would rather not be in. In these times now as a young adult, I think back to those two weeks ten years ago. Much more could have been made out of those days of my life. Now when I must spend a day with visiting relatives in another Washington museum, I think about what it could mean to me to remember something special about that moment years from now, and I make every effort to enjoy it. Simply remembering what could have been and recognizing my personal mistake, however small at the time, helps me to recall how I want to live my life: with every opportunity appreciated, with every chance indulged, with no regrets!
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