It’s hard to be back living in your childhood bedroom and not spend a fair amount of time reflecting on growing up, the person you used to be, and how the hell you got to the here and now. I look for answers in old yearbooks, photo albums, love notes, pictures torn out of magazines, and mementos that once meant everything and now, I can’t recall why it was so important to store a matchbox away for safekeeping.
All of this delving into my past makes me wonder what factors made me want to be a traveler. Why did I want to get away from home so badly and why did I crave new cultures and people constantly? Why was it harder for me to be home than to pack up and move to a foreign land?
I could say it was the boredom of growing up in a town of 10,000 people, but so many of those people were content to never leave. So, why was I off searching for colleges with study abroad programs as soon as I got out of high school?
After sifting through pieces of my past, I have some ideas about why the lifestyle of a vagabond called, and still calls, to me.
My Bookworm Lifestyle
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with reading. As a child, I was usually off in a corner devouring any book I could get my hands on. I read at the dinner table. I read after school. I begged my parents to take me to the library, where I could take the maximum amount of books home. The written word was my safe space and as a shy, young girl, that was the most important thing in the world to me.
These books talked of fantastical lands; characters that were nothing like anyone I’d ever met, and lifestyles quite unlike my own. Books were my first foray into traveling. I gained empathy and open-mindedness from putting myself in the shoes of characters from other cultures. I got a glimpse of what it would be like to be in a place unlike my own and it intrigued me. When I grew older and heard about opportunities to live abroad, it didn’t scare me. It absolutely thrilled me!
Being Forced To Watch Foreign Films
“You’ll thank me later.”
Yeah, yeah, we never believe our parents when they say this, but I’ll admit it. I’m glad my mom made me watch weird movies from Europe and South America when I was young. At the time, I was bored and sometimes, annoyed that I had to watch something that no one else cared about at Blockbuster. But, I secretly enjoyed some of these foreign movies.
My mom rented the movie Amelie when I was in high school and although the big orgasm scene shocked my grandma, I fell in love with the magic and music of France and the French language. I wanted to visit this place, where people still rode bicycles down cobblestone lanes and bought fresh produce from the local grocery shop.
Years later, I made it to Paris and of course, it was not everything the movie Amelie had made it out to be. But, an accordion player happened to be playing the music from the movie when I strolled through the park and I smiled, knowing my younger self was getting a dream come true.
A Traveling Family
My parents had a Japanese exchange student stay with them before I was born. I never knew her, but I kept a fan that she had given us as a gift. I wore a grass skirt that my Aunt Mary sent from Hawaii and later, put a colorful fish wall hanging up that she sent from somewhere in Asia.
My grandparents spent their golden years traveling throughout Europe and Asia and my parents took me on my first international trips (Canada and Mexico) when I was still in middle school.
Being around people who wanted to explore and receiving little trinkets from unknown places piqued my curiosity and gave me an appetite for travel. I wanted to see these places, too! When we took big family trips to Hawaii, Alaska, Mazatlan, and Vancouver, I ended up meeting other kids who were traveling too and I got my first taste of the joys of spending time with people who lived to adventure and dream.
My dad was a teacher and I ended up going to school out of my district so that I could be with him. This meant I went into 1st grade with kids that I hadn’t been growing up with. Then, in 7th grade, my parents decided to put me BACK into my district, so now I had to leave the people I considered to be my best friends in the whole world. Sure enough, when I went to high school, most of my friends went to a different one and when I made my college choice, I only knew one other person going there.
I had to adapt a fair amount in my childhood, which might explain why I was so unbelievably shy until I took drama classes in high school (which was like joining a crazy tribe and that was a whole other adjustment in itself.) Even though I was timid, I had to adapt to a new school and make new friends, more than most. At the time, I hated it, but now I think it gave me the bravery to go to a new country, without knowing a soul, and know that I will be okay.
Being A Quarter Italian
My dad’s side of the family is massive. 11 (or is it 12?! I can never keep track) children in all and they are all loud-mouthed Italians. My dad’s mom was fully Italian, but with a Mississippi accent and she was one hell of a matriarch. Our family get togethers involved lots of food, yelling, hugging, dancing, and tamales. We really liked tamales and so I thought they were Italian for way too long….
Looking back, we weren’t actually that traditionally Italian. But, we always talked about being Italian and I felt that if I went to Italy, maybe I could figure out why my family was insane, and MAYBE I would find my people!
These were silly thoughts built on stereotypes and fanciful ideas, but I did go to Italy and I’ll tell you, it did explain the craziness somewhat 😉
Never Feeling Satisfied
This one is a bit more serious, but I think an important point. Looking back at my journals, I’ve constantly felt as if there were more to life than the life I’ve been currently living. While I’m here, dithering around in a small town, there are people living crazy lives in locales that I can’t even imagine! I must be there!
I won’t say this is normal…or even healthy. It took me a long time to realize that it’s not the places that are dull, but it’s me, not letting myself be satisfied with them.
I’ve come to face this, very much so, now that I’ve moved back home. Before, I would moan about how much I hated being home, how nothing changed here, how the people knew nothing and cared about nothing outside their own town limits. I didn’t let myself enjoy anything and planned my escapes as quick as possible.
After a lot of self-reflection and hopefully, growing up, I’m letting myself miss the world abroad, but also forcing myself to see my hometown through a traveler’s eyes. It is beautiful here. I’ve met some really interesting people; some of them even travel! I’ve found new places to explore and I feel more satisfied than I ever have before.
But, the clever north wind still calls……I am content to be here now, but I know that soon enough, I’ll want to be somewhere else. The thing I know now is that I won’t be leaving because I’m seeking satisfaction.
I’ll be leaving because I love travel and I was born and raised to revel in it.