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Into the Great Wide Open

I was recently asked if travel is healing for me. I never thought of it that way, but it absolutely is. There is something about movement in general that brings me peace, whether it’s my long walks or a train ride. I suppose this is why I once “went for a drive” in Miami and wound up on Sanibel Island watching the sunset.

World travel goes well beyond merely calming my mind. I simply exists in those moments abroad. I don’t think about work, school or anything else. I am fully present, savoring my surroundings, immersing into previously unknown cultures. Foreign becomes familiar. The world never becomes small to me, just more open.

I remember the first time I left North America. I was 19 years old and finishing up my first semester at Bucks County Community College. One of my professors handed me a flyer advertising a fashion merchandising course she was leading over the winter interim in Paris and London. At the time, my mind couldn’t process the possibility of going to Europe. It was too far away. A romantic dreamland that was not accessible to a teenage girl in suburban Philadelphia. I had never even heard of the Louvre. And then there was the issue of financing – my paycheck from Bob’s Cards & Gifts wasn’t going to cover it! I figured it was worth a try to ask my parents, but I didn’t think they would say yes.

I will never forget this moment of my life. It was always about timing with my dad, and once you got a “no” the discussion was over. I took the flyer to the dinner table that night and put it on my chair behind me as the family ate. I gauged my dad’s mood which seemed to be fair. He didn’t mention anything about bills or other topics that would surely get me a “no” if they were on his mind.

I couldn’t ask in front of my brothers because that would create a ruckus for sure. So, I waited until my dad retired to the living room with his newspaper. I presented my case, emphasizing all the points my dad would find appealing (three college credits, organized school trip, etc.). He took the flyer and his face disappeared behind the newspaper again. “I’ll think about it,” he said. Well, it wasn’t a “no!”

An agonizing 24 hours passed, and the next night after dinner, my dad handed the flyer back to me and said, “You can go.” Those words changed my life.

Paris and London 1998

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