A friend of mine once told me I love traveling so much because I was dissatisfied with my life and was continually looking for ways to escape it. An interesting hypothesis — but only partially true.
More important, it gave me pause for thought: Why do I travel? What possesses me to temporarily depart from my daily life, carefully pack a portion of my possessions into some luggage, and board a form of transportation that will carry me off to a place I’ve never been, where I have no connections or contacts, where everything is unfamiliar, where I can’t pronounce the names of streets or selections on a menu?
The reasons are as unique as the millions of individuals who are doing all this going to and fro. Some are lured by the opportunity to explore a new culture, or to road test the lessons they’ve absorbed in few Rosetta Stone language lessons. Others have the urge to explore a fabled city, to indulge in an extreme sport in an ideal locale, to view classic artwork and architecture, or to photograph (or climb) an iconic mountain. Still others are wooed by pleasant thoughts of fleeing from their monstrous boss, obnoxious neighbors, or rambunctious children — at least for a little while.
For me, my wanderlust took hold when I was a child, when I was most definitely not dissatisfied with my life. One of my aunts and uncles had a home in Newburgh, New York, a mere 90 minutes north of my hometown of Brooklyn. What is, today, a regular daily commute for many adults was an exhilarating adventure for a six-year-old. One of my earliest memories is of packing the matching set of three hard-shell powder-blue Samsonite suitcases with silver locks and satin lining (this was, after all, one of my parents’ wedding gifts, when they tied the knot in 1960) and heading to this Shangri-La. Heading out on different roads, absorbing different scenery, ticking off the three rail trestles that indicated we were nearing our destination, sleeping in a different bed at night, and waking up to new sounds and scents — it was all so thrilling.
Some things never change, and now, four decades later, I still grow excited (disturbingly and irritatingly so, according to my family and friends who must tolerate me when the daily countdown to departure reaches single digits) whenever I select a destination, plan a trip, and pack a suitcase.
I’ve been extremely fortunate over the 40 years of traveling that I’ve done. My fourth passport is rapidly filling up with official stamps from places far more exotic than Newburgh. But no matter how far I travel or how long it takes to get there, I’ll always fondly recall the 90-minute drive to my aunt and uncle’s white house off of Route 32 in upstate New York, where the passion to explore was ignited.
This blog arises from those experiences.