More tales from the trail.

After quite the influx of messages following my travel article yesterday, and the joy I had in recounting the events, I chose to write more on voyages that made significant impacts on my life. The best place to start is sometimes at the beginning. I grew up with parents that did not travel. Going to the Smokey Mountains in the fall to see all the dead, {“changing”} leaves and driving up to Indiana for my mom’s family reunions really was the limit of our travels, growing up. When I was a sophomore in high school, I asked my parents if I could go to England, France and Spain when I was a senior. “Sure,” my dad said. “If you pay for it.” I was 15 at the time. The day after I turned 16, I applied for a job at the local Hardee’s restaurant (one of two fast food joints in my hometown…they’ve since gotten a Subway. 😉 I didn’t get a lot of hours, and some weeks my paycheck was as little as $19. A good week of overtime in the summer months might get me upwards of $200. I gave mom gas money to drive me to and from work, not having a car of my own. I worked every hour available, and saved every dollar I could. Skip forward two years, standing in my parent’s kitchen, I told them they had to be at the school the following night for a meeting. “For what?” “It’s for the Europe trip in March. You have to go in order for me to go.” My dad immediately dismissed all thoughts of such nonsense. “We don’t have that kind of money.” I opened up a brown grocery bag full of cash, of all denominations, and dumped it on the kitchen table. My mom burst into tears and swatted at my dad, “You told her she could go if she paid for it.” Silence, minus my mom’s sniffles. “…Yeah..I guess I did. Well. What time do we need to be there?” And, so began my ticket to the world and my never ending wanderlust. I had never flown before that trip, when we landed at JFK for a long layover awaiting our flight to Heathrow. Even then, I was overcome with a tantalizing thought that, just across the bridge was NEW YORK CITY. I doubt the wheels were up before I decided, while staring out that airplane window at Nashville, TN growing ever smaller, that I would never stop traveling. We made it to Heathrow sometime early a.m., there, but I was far too excited to think about sleep. How did this trip come about, you ask? It all started with an incredible human named Peggy Fragopoulos. She didn’t have to, but each year, she took a group of all who wanted to attend to various countries around the world. She knew she was teaching a demographic that had little opportunity to do so, otherwise. The ripples this angel of a woman has made in the world by exposing so many to cultures they’d otherwise never see, cannot be overstated. She has literally changed the world. So, stop one…London. I was captivated, everything from the double deckers to the cafes to the red phone booths, I had an affinity for that city before we ever stepped foot on Anne Hathaway’s cottage or walked over to Big Ben, Piccadilly, Shakespeare’s Grave or any of the sites one must see on their first trip to London. When we’d sufficiently taken in as much as 18+ hour days would allow, we were on a ferry bound for Paris. Paris.- I. Was in Paris.- This small town girl, who, weeks ago, had never been on an airplane, was standing under the Eiffel Tower. Paris is a bit of a blur, as sleep deprivation and miles on foot were in horrible ratio and not conducive to mental imprints. But, I recall the feeling of becoming familiar, comfortable even, with the fact that I would forever be a traveler. With no sharp details that make for a good story regarding the city of romance,  for now, let’s leave Paris and board a train for Madrid. I recall that, what should have been a 10 hour trip by rail turned into a 17 hour trek. Train problems. I couldn’t have cared less. Do you have any idea how cool I thought it was that I could say that my train from Paris to Madrid was delayed? Spain was utterly incredible. Sangria flowed, music filled the air, the people were beautiful, the language, food, architecture, streets, everything, really…all of Spain made me happy. I found myself right back there 2 years later under very different circumstances, but, that’s another publication. By the time we’d worked our way backwards by train, ferry and plane to NYC, I was a changed young girl. I could never go back to my days of not knowing how very big the world was and how quickly I had to begin seeing as much of it as I could. I remember finding it incredibly difficult to answer the question most everyone asked me…”Did you have fun?” No. I had a spiritual awakening, a new true north, a broader view of the world and the people in it that I vowed I’d continue expanding, from city to city, country to country. I’d had a life altering experience so profound, that, almost 3 decades later, much can be discerned about my life by flipping through a stack of passports, the eclectic art that traveled thousands of miles from the hands that made it and hangs in my home, and my pictures. Speaking of passports, at one point, about a year ago, I realized at 3am that my passport had expired. I don’t think I slept much, if at all, that night. I felt imprisoned without a valid passport in hand. A few weeks after that, I received a call from a member of my skydiving family asking if I could go to Belize to help with a drop zone operating seasonally. “Um…sure? When?,,,” “Well, it’s pretty short notice…” “When?…” “Like, next Thursday??” Oh, I’m definitely in. Last minute international rush? Yes. And, (in the voice of Forrest Gump,) “That’s how I ended up spending the winter in San Pedro. Madonna called it ‘La Isla Bonita.'” There are many countries and many stories between Spain and Belize, but for now, suffice to say that a true case of wanderlust never, ever ends. As I wrap up this entry, the clock tells me I need to be at the drop zone in about an hour. I am staring out at the sea, on a narrow little island in the Gulf. From time to time, I take stock of my life and wonder, “How did I ever get here from my tiny little hometown where moving far away isn’t the popular choice…” And, I think back to a 15 year old girl asking her parents for permission go to England, France and Spain. Travel. Grow. Repeat. Peace, Warriors.

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