I have to be coerced into traveling. I have friends who begin planning for their next trip the day they return from their last one. Granted, once I am on the trip, I enjoy myself, but I’m afraid I have always needed someone to initiate travel for me to begin planning and packing.
I thought about why that is, and realized traveling is truly a learned behavior. I grew up outside Nashville. We were only a day’s car ride—and an even faster plane ride—from Chicago, yet it wasn’t until my 30s that I was introduced to that wonderful city. I was also in my 30s when I first visited New York and fell in love. My thirties also contained new experiences in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland, Oregon and Madison, Wisconsin. In my 40s I visited Hawaii, Arizona, and Key West. Why did I begin traveling so much as I got older? Work and girlfriends pushing me along the way.
So, where did I go as a kid? There was one educational trip that took me to Williamsburg, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. My dad’s company allowed us to go along on a convention trip to Miami when I was little, and we took the arduous journey through the length of Alabama to get to Panama City, Florida, a few times. Mostly, though, my travel experience was to family reunions in Kentucky that shaped my reluctance to go on a long car ride again until I was the one driving.
My father and mother smoked. It was acceptable for them growing up to do so, and when my father was in the military, they gave cigarettes out as part of their rations. My father had even grown up on a tobacco farm, so to him smoking was as natural as breathing fresh air. So, when you’re the youngest of three and all the children shared the backseat, smoke filling the car with the windows rolled up was standard practice.
Roads to my relatives’ homes in rural Kentucky were mapped out like asphalt finger painting. They were curved and bent in an unreasonable fashion, and with my diagnosis of IBS and a tendency to have motion sickness, I had to alert my father more than once to pull over. Frustrated—as if on a military time schedule—he’d slam the brakes and make sure I hadn’t done anything to soil his car seat.
The trip was four hours to our destination. It would take me a minute to adjust to the solid ground and fragrant breeze upon arrival, but eventually I would reset myself and enjoy my family and the feast that came with reunions. The festivities would last a few hours, and when complete, we would get right back in the car to do it all over again.
Wait, you ask, you wouldn’t spend the night? No! We would drive four hours to get there, stay for the afternoon, then travel back home in the same conditions for four more hours. And we took that trip a couple times a year, even more if someone died.
You spend your adulthood either embracing or unlearning things from your youth, and traveling is certainly something I am still working on enjoying. Just don’t sign me up for any frequent traveler program just yet, because I need to pull over.