Some people have a little bit of a travel itch — they want to see the world, but so many things stand in their way: time, money, fear, children, a traveling companion. Others are infected with the travel bug from birth. They play with airplanes, spin globes, dream of living overseas. For others, the travel virus grows. In a good way. That’s what happened to me.
When I was 16, my family moved to Midway Island, a spec of sand 1,400 miles northwest of Hawaii that was then populated by sailors, Navy dependents and still is home to hundreds of thousands of nesting sea birds. This was not a foreign land, but, oh my, it wasn’t California either. I had never lived so close to the sea or been so far from freeways and malls. We rode three-speed bicycles everywhere. A Gooney Bird nested outside our front door, eyelevel with my little brother. The Filipinos who worked for my dad sent home lumpia, pancit, and once – to my mother’s dismay — an entire tuna.
I moved to Hawaii after high school and learned the nuances of culture and race, how to make a lei and pronounce singsong words, to slip out of my flip flops at the door. The travel bug got under my skin, just a little.
Then Peace Corps in Micronesia where I struggled to learn the language, scratched myself raw from real bug bites and staggered through an intense cultural awakening. Giggling children followed me everywhere, teenage boys stared, adolescent girls stroked the blond hair on my arm. The women in my village netted reef fish in the lagoon and asked me to go with them. I looked at the benjos lining the shoreline (overwater outhouses, more or less flushed by the tides) and said no. It creeped me out then –- today, I’d ignore the sewage and go.
But the real travel infestation happened on the next move. Guam, one of the most unappreciated islands in the world. A melting pot of cultures, lifestyles, sea sports and beauty. And an airline job. Free travel, almost anywhere. Work a little, fly a lot. I was hooked.
A move to the mainland, no more free tickets and a family meant fewer exotic trips, but I never lost that sense of wanderlust and curiosity, the thrill of breathing in a new city, making friends over a pint in a local pub, haggling with shopkeepers, getting lost and finding my way back. Travel is less frenetic now, a little more immersion. I’ve lost the compulsion to collect stamps in my passport, but there is always one travel adventure or another on the horizon.
How about you? Are you new to travel or a road warrior who’s looking for a few tips? Hauling petulant teenagers to Paris or hoping to take the grandkids on a grand adventure? Striking out on your own for the first time? Tell me about you. What’s your next travel adventure?