The first time I left the country, I was a year and a half old, and my parents were moving us from Toronto, Canada, to Columbus, Ohio. If my passport picture is any indication (full on hysteria), I wasn’t too keen about this transition.
At four, I made my first trip overseas, to India. My memories of this trip are like vivid snapshots, which is odd, since I can barely remember details of subsequent visits. We’d arrived in Mumbai in the middle of the night, and as was the custom in those days, several dozen relatives awaited us on the other side of an enormous window at the airport. There’s an oft-quoted family joke about my first words when I woke up the next morning, left my grandparents’ house, and ventured out for a walk through the crowded Mumbai streets with an uncle I was meeting for the first time: “Is this a parade?”
Every other year or so during my childhood and adolescence, we made this extremely long trek to visit the extended family—roughly 24 hours door to door. En route, we made use of long layovers to stroll through international airports in exotic venues—Paris, Dubai, Frankfurt—and on occasion, take daytrips. I was seven when we visited what is still one of my favorite places: Rome. Back then, and as it remains, that city was crowded, historic, elegant. We got to taste real Italian pizza (though we kids were sorely disappointed by the lack of processed toppings). The Aesop’s fable, Androcles the Lion, played very much on my young mind as we strolled through the Coliseum, where stray kittens took the place of the fierce lions I’d imagined. My mother was pickpocketed on the Spanish Steps, which I know sounds terrible, but to my youthful Midwestern self, it was awfully thrilling. Not to mention, our driver intercepted the pickpocket just in time, so ahem, no harm done.
Such trips continue on into the present, only now with my own kids. Always on these sojourns, I’m filled with anticipation. As soon as I see those flashing blue lights on any airport runway, my heart skips a beat. And when the doors to the plane open, the scents of a new place greeting me, I wonder, what story awaits me this time?