I believe in travel and its perfect ability to transform a wayward soul into a dedicated adventurer. I believe in caught moments, stupendous sights and sacred silences as well as lost shoes, lost luggage and lost prejudices.
I learned to travel young imprinted by my parents who spent Sunday afternoons on car rides and dreams. Looking out the car window at land to build a house on, led me to believe that promises were always “out there.”
My first trips were 100 milers to my grandparents’ house. I spent those miles in the ‘56 Olds sparring with my sister for every square inch of backseat acreage. The leg room was limited and my sister hogged the seat, but the view outside the window was always worth the trip. We took Highway 47 up the center of Illinois to Joliet. Along the way were bathtub virgins, triple shake drive-ins and 2 building towns. I listened as my parents talked about the condition of the roads, the smell of fertilized fields and whether the car was running okay. I liked the green fields, the wind in my hair and the license plate game.
It was on a trip the summer I was 12 that I became a traveler for life. My father wanted to take the fabled Route 66 to California, and so we set out on our first road trip. We had to do the shoestring tour, since there were four of us with a long way to go and limited money. We had countless rest stop meals where we ate bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread. Once, in the Badlands, it was 120 degrees and by the time we stopped for lunch, the bread had grown crunchy in the heat. But there were charms to be had in the teepee motels, hairpin curves and tumbleweeds. No souvenir stand was safe from us and no scenic overlook was over looked. I fell in love with the road and the endless adventure it offered. No amount of backseat spats, queasy stomachs or superheated leather seats could have kept me from the amazing canyons at my feet, the tidal spray of my first ocean or the charm of a new, pool side friend.
These many years later, my life is still informed by the traveling I do. I never expected that on the way out to the unknown, I’d meet myself along the way. I found what curiosity can bring and what an open heart can reveal. I learned that the roads that seem to lead to nowhere always ended up somewhere I’d always wanted to go. I found out that a picture of a place without a person in it was forgettable, and the best pictures were the ones I memorized with my heart. I learned that setting out in a beat up car is as good a starting place as first class on any airline.
I believe in travel, because travel plots the course; I have to take it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.