Traveling is in my blood. My Sicilian heritage decreed it, as my great-grandfather snuck onto the ship that took him across the Atlantic to New York where he meandered and made do until the rest of his family could meet him. How brave is that? How insane? How utterly stubborn which is the core behavior of my family. That sense of voyage continued on to my grandfather and his children. While my Sicilian family is huge, very few of the family as a whole left the New York/New Jersey region. Very few ventured far and away to live in different areas. But my grandfather, he still had that adventurous sense and that came down to me.
One could say, perhaps your desire for home comes from your father then and I have to say that’s not the case. He has driven a tractor-trailer my entire life all across America and through the eastern edge of Canada. Movement is instilled in him. He can’t sit still, not even for a day unless a cold forces him to stop movement.
As a child we would climb into our car and go to chicken barbeques–a favorite of my father’s–but he would find these outdoor events in other states or hours away. Often, we would end up somewhere near the Canadian border or an entirely new state eating chicken at a firehouse we never heard of, interacting with people we would never see again.
We didn’t have the money for vacations, we couldn’t afford to go anywhere special, but my parents tried their best to still ensure that sense of travel that they had in themselves. When my cousin was married in Minnesota, we drove there instead of flying. Most of our family snubbed their noses at the idea. Why not fly, why not spend a little extra money, how cheap. But I wouldn’t change that experience for the life of me. We drove through states I had never stepped foot in and saw small towns I don’t remember the names of. We passed by a post office the size of a bedroom and drove through cornfields that went on into the horizon. We passed by lake after lake in Minnesota and bunkered down as a tornado raged.
My friends would come back from winter or summer breaks with braids in their hair and the brightest of beads from their tropical vacations and oh, I was jealous. Green eyed with envy. I wanted that, I wanted that adventure and I was bitter that my family could not give me that opportunity. Now, I’m older and I appreciate all they did give me despite what lack of money they had. I made it out of New York, that was more than many other people.
When I moved to DC and got my first full-time job I opted to spend all available free money on two things: further education and travel. I attended online certification courses and booked flights. I flew, terrified as I was, to New Orleans to meet an online friend I had never met in person before. Our first meeting was in baggage claim and we proceeded to go into a city, two physical strangers, and stay in a place we had never visited before.
But it didn’t stop from there. Boston, New York, Florida, San Francisco. The travel bug had firmly bit me, it had given me that desire for wanderlust, and I wasn’t going to let go.
But the money had another idea. Gone it went, plunged into adulthood necessities. The wedding, a car, car repairs, rent, you name it. Our availability became tighter but I became a whiz at figuring out my PTO hours and setting my sights on other adventures. Now 2018 is arriving and with it a flurry of possibilities, but with one possibility becoming most real:
The United Kingdom.
I wanted to go overseas before I knew it was called international travel or what a passport was. As a child, my favorite playtime activities involved far away places. I would escape in my closet and arrive into England. I would travel to Ireland through magical stones. I galavanted through the Black Forest and made castles in Swedish snow. My wild imagination took me on these voyages but I knew I wanted to be there physically, that was my biggest wish.
When we planned our wedding we also decided to do a big honeymoon. It seems to be The Thing in the Washington, DC area. People do one of two honeymoons: Hawaii or Europe. We wanted to do Europe. Both of our heritages are from there and we both have such a desire to see the United Kingdom. As a wedding gift, as our friends cleverly knew this would enforce our trip abroad, we received vouchers for two seats on the Jacobite train through western Scotland. That was it, simple as that, we had to go.
At first, we put off the planning. It was far enough away, wasn’t it? We had time to figure it out. Anyway, there were the holidays to contend with and large bills left to pay from our wedding. Let’s get back on our feet, our spending back in line, then, then we could plan the honeymoon. But suddenly the holidays were over and we realized that we were a matter of months away from the trip we had planned to go on.
Already having to alter the timeframe we planned to visit due to the royal wedding of Prince Harry, we figured it would be best to get the ball rolling and search for flights. And so it happened, the planning for our trip began.
To say I’m excited seems so silly, so simple. A simple trip to Edinburgh and London exploded with activity. We added Dublin to the trip, finding it cheaper to have a long layover in Ireland than to have a short one just passing through. We found day trips that will take us to the Highlands of Scotland and the southern parts of England. Quickly, we found our footing. Three to four days in each city with one day sucked up for a tour outside of the area. Better to let someone lead us and explain where we’re going than to try and navigate it ourselves.
While attempting to figure out where I’m going, I found myself getting emotional. Randomly, while watching tour videos for specific tours we looked to book, I would have tears in my eyes. I felt so amazed, so thankful, so gracious that I was able to finally do this. And I felt so happy for my younger self, the little girl who dreamed of traveling overseas but never thought she would be able to. I wish I could go to that little girl and promise her it would happen, that her dreams would come true.
And they are, or they will. In less than five months we’ll board a plane that will bear us to Scotland. We will travel the countryside, marvel at the mountains, then by train go to the western edge of Scotland. More marveling, more beauty all before another train takes us to London. We’ll dine and tour and see Hamilton the Musical, which is amusing, since we’re seeing a play of American history in another country. We’ll visit Roman baths and henges, we’ll touch Druid trees, then a plane will take us to Ireland to complete our trip with beer and fish and chips.
I’m so grateful, I’m so lucky, and already I have a list of places I want to see again and again. Someday, someday we’ll go back, but for the time being I must only focus on the now and this beautiful chance of a lifetime.