If you love to travel as much as I do, you’re gone as often as you get the chance. I wasn’t always this lucky, however, and didn’t get to travel much until my 30’s. I was recently talking with a friend and she asked where I’ve been off to lately. I listed my recent trips, California, Hawaii, Florida, sailing in the British Virgin Islands, all very matter of factly. She said, “Are you serious? I am so jealous. I can’t remember my last vacation. Wow, are you lucky.” It was at that point that it hit me – I was taking my travel for granted, something I swore I’d never do.
I started keeping a travel journal in 1999. I called it THE TRAVEL ADVENTURES OF CARL & SHERRY. Okay, so not too original…It was actually my husband’s idea, as he thought it would be great to have these memories in our old age or whenever we just wanted to look back. I truly could see us sitting outside at our home, pulling out that journal, and sending us back to spending Christmas in Paris.
So, my conversation with my friend got me to pull out that journal and when I opened it to the last entry, I couldn’t believe it had been 3 years since I documented any of our trips. I was so disappointed in myself, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the journal, especially at the request of my friends. Even more so this showed I was taking travel for granted. I have been asked so often about places we’ve stayed and restaurants we’ve eaten at, such as, “What was the funky hotel you stayed at in Prague?” “What was the restaurant you ate at in Florence that had those stuffed zucchini blossoms you guys loved so much?” All I have to do is grab that journal and the information is at hand and I have a grateful friend.
But, now I was so far behind and I had some amazing adventures in those 3 years. Several questions popped up. Would I be able to recreate the trips and would it be worth my time? But, more importantly, I had to ask myself why had I stopped writing? I sat down and read the whole journal just to see what I had written and reminiscence a bit. But, rather than a journey through past travels, what I read instead spoke volumes to me about how my concept of traveling and how I actually travel have changed since those “early years”. It was truly a moment of self-discovery and I was sad I had lost the last 3 years.
What I found when I began reading simply made me smile. My early entries were replete with awe and wonder and pure delight and filled with a series of “firsts”. I talked with such excitement about getting upgraded to Business Class – my first time up front – and about tasting a Bellini for the first time in Venice.
The initial entry was a 3 day trip we took to London on a package deal. I think I booked the whole trip for around $1200 through Virgin Atlantic. We arrived at our very nice hotel, The Grosevenor House, but had a really crappy room, and I mean crappy; it was literally a converted closet with views of the alley. But, we didn’t give it much thought. Instead, we threw our bags on the bed and headed out with our travel guide books.
I was enthralled about eating at an English pub and simply in heaven having tea at The Dorchester. We literally didn’t stop for 3 days and saw every major tourist attraction, 20 in all because I listed them, because who knew when we’d get back. Who knew we would end up living there many years later and eating at an English pub would become common place and I would be taking all my visiting friends for tea…
On my first trip to Paris, I wrote about literally getting goose bumps seeing the Mona Lisa; about finding narrow streets filled with little shops and cobblestones; about finding an open air market by the Eiffel Tower where we bought some Brie and Moubert with baguettes that we had with wine in our room before dinner on Saturday night; about Xavier, our driver, who took us to Versailles and Giverney in a Mercedes; and about having deux cafe au laits at Cafe de Flore to people watch.
I wrote about seats going “all the way back” on our trip to Lake Como and Venice; about having a $12 bottle of wine with dinner every night; about having coffee and listening to music in the Plaza San Marco; and how after a debate, we decided to pay $25 to take a private water taxi to our hotel. I oohed and aahed about the fireworks outside our room at the Villa d’Este and seeing a Marc Chagall exhibit in Lugano and how I was going to find out why he put a chicken in many of his paintings when we got home. (It symbolizes fertility).
I wrote about how I hate being the organizer for trips with friends and how I always swear I’ll never do it again, but always do! I described the glorious sunset we watched off Madekat on Nantucket and the lighthouse we found on Atlantic Road while riding our bikes down Poplis Road to Sconset.
But, as I got towards the end of the journal, my writing took on a distinct change in tone. It went from one of story-telling to matter-of-fact, just like when I listed my trips to my friend. I no longer shared the emotions of the trip, but just listed the details, such as where we stayed and ate and by the very end, I just listed the date and place with zero details. I guess I had plans to go back and fill in the blanks.
When I closed the journal, I took a moment to let it all sink in. I realized how vastly different both the basics of how we travel, along with my attitude had become. I now take for granted that the seats go back and hey, they should be flat bed. If I had a room that was a closet, I’d be livid and it would be unacceptable and someone would be sure to know about it. We don’t take a lot of touristy trips anymore and would never think to sip coffee in the Plaza San Marco.
It didn’t take me long to realize it’s not only time to put pen to paper again, but also to view my travels through a refreshed outlook. On my upcoming trips, I’m going to close my eyes and relive the emotions of where I’ve been and share my true love of travel with you.
While I don’t want to give a moral to this story, there is something I want you to take away from my self-discovery. Please enjoy every moment of your travel and capture it in your memory if not on paper. Don’t take a second of your glorious experiences, good and bad, for granted. Treat every trip as an adventure and see it through those newbie eyes. Being well-traveled doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. Make your travel a series of “firsts”.
Are you taking your travel for granted or are you still in awe?