For the past month, Bee & I have been living in Penang, Malaysia as the start of our international travel adventures. It was less than a few weeks from when we were presented with this awesome opportunity to when had passports in hand, our belongings packed up, and we were flying across the ocean to try something new.
Upon arrival, we stayed for a couple of weeks in a homestay situation where we were able to meet travelers from around the world. Add to that the fair number of travel bloggers I’ve met over the past couple of years and there’s one thing I know for certain…I missed out on the learnings and experiences of travel in my youth. Whether it was as a child or even in those “find myself” college years, I was never blessed with the life and lessons of travel.
This is my first trip outside of North America. While many people that we’ve encountered either grew up in a family that traveled far & wide or they spent time abroad in gap years and during college, I have none of that experience. To me Hawaii was a “foreign” destination when I first went there in my mid-30′s. It is for this very reason that Bee & I are setting out now to see what is beyond our borders and our understanding.
I grew up in stereotypical “small town” America at the base of Mt. Rainier in Washington State. It is an idealistic area dotted with farms of cattle and crops. Where blue-collar workers drive their pickup trucks along Main Street to stop at mom-and-pop businesses. The biggest annual events are one town’s Logger’s Rodeo that celebrates the area’s rich timber industry and the springtime Daffodil Parade that winds through 4 cities. Its a wonderful place so full of charm and kind people who smile while welcoming in strangers.
But at the same time, it is a very homogenous life where one’s neighbors are most likely Caucasian and the viewpoints held among the population are pretty much identical. There is not much in the way of different opinions, cultures, religion, or even culinary offerings.
One could say it was a very “white bred” or “plain Jane” sort of a place in which to be raised.
As a child I did not come into contact with those who did not look like me or who did not have similar experiences as I did growing up. I was never put into uncomfortable situations where I didn’t understand the language, the backgrounds, or the mores of the people I came into contact with.
Yet it is those experiences which help one to “Unpack the Invisible Knapsack” as it were. The realization that there are different ways to think, dress, eat, and believe pushes us beyond our sphere of understanding and grows one’s inner dialog.
It is for this very reason that I feel that travel is such an integral tool for learning and transcendence.
Now many more experienced travelers and bloggers have written great posts on why parents should incorporate travel in their children’s lives. I am not one to come up with a checklist or reasoning why (but many of the blogs listed below will give more meat to those discussions). I am just a novice myself, have no worldly experience, and am now reaching out to change things for my daughter.
I feel a pang regret for missing out on travel in those formative years. I was born & raised in the same 10-mile radius. I lived “in the city” of Seattle for 3 years during & after college, spent a few months living in the Bay Area when my Hubby was transferred there for work, and then moved back to the familiar plateau suburbs to raise my family.
As a child, I went on the obligatory childhood trip to Disneyland, saw the Grand Canyon, and visited relatives in Nebraska once. And while I don’t “remember” it per se, I do have fond feelings and a few lasting memories of the fun we had bonding as a family.
Whether it was the smell of my Dad’s convenience store coffee in his thermos as we road-tripped across the country or the excitement of my first airplane trip back in the days when one would dress up in their “Sunday Best” just to fly, there were impressions made.
When our foster children were young, we went on one *big* trip flying across the USA to Disney World. Then about 8 years ago my Hubby encouraged me to take the youngest of them to Manhattan. She was just 14 a the time and I was in my early 30′s. So began a desire to want to see and do more in this great world rather than just spend my days in the same bubble.
I have a new understanding of how precious life & time are as I’ve suffered with a couple of chronic and disabling conditions over the past decade. Along with the knowledge that travel and new experiences expand our mind and challenges grow our persona, I’m not going to let my present & future go to waste. That is specifically why with our biological child, little Miss Bee, I’m going to do everything in my power to show her the world!