The above picture is of my mother and I in France in 1992. As you can tell, I was ( and am) a complete geek!
I have read several blogs by families about to embark upon long term journeys, and I can’t help but reflect on my own. I know the ups and downs of nomadic living, because they are what I encountered from an early age. You see, some people view travel as being strange and frequently ‘only for the wealthy’, or the polar opposite: for hobos. Both are incorrect. Travel can fit all budgets, and all lifestyles.
I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to a British mother and Texan father. My mom almost gave birth to me in Switzerland ( I am severely pissed she didn’t, just for the record). Because my dad was a salesman, we traveled extensively, but had three main basis: Antibes, France; Singapore, and Wisconsin. The States was never home to me, and I felt very alienated there. I felt that word kids hate, different. Not in some snobby way, as I felt that I was less then my classmates. I had plenty of friends in France and in Singapore, where we spent half of every year, just not many in Wisconsin. In fact, I didn’t have any at the school I went to. I then came to know the US as being like Wisconsin, and that meme stuck with me until I moved from the UK to Los Angeles. My perspective changed, as that is what travel does: it opens you up.
I was not homeschooled or unschooled as a kid, and I feel strongly my life would have been much happier not having to fight off bullies or take pills to stay up all night studying. Nonetheless, I became an autodidact-on-the-road, as I loved to read and learn about life. I particularly enjoyed conversing with people. We stayed in hotels all the time, and my friends became the staff, whereever we went. I enjoyed playing with children my own age, but always seemed to gravitate to the stories and lives that adults had to tell. Asians Love kids, and I remember one man at a hotel in Hong Kong spending hours with me, and I would help him relay messages to guests who were expecting phone calls. In Europe, I wanted to be a maid, as they were always so cute in their uniforms and loved to play with me.
My real home was ( and still is) the airport. I can’t tell you how many times we flew into Amsterdam or Paris. Because my dad flew so often, we got upgraded ( oh how I wish we could do that now…) and so we got to be in the lounges, where my dad would mingle with other businessmen. My mom and I would walk around the airports and find a place to eat. When I got older, I would go find a cafe and read, or a pub. I loved reading and writing, and from an early age I knew I was a writer. But the cafe scene in France brought elevated my enjoyment of the craft so much so I never thought leaving the EU was possible. I didn’t care what the cafe was like: I loved seeing how happy people were eating and drinking and enjoying life.
Every summer, I would go to a summer camp in a country of my choosing, and follow whatever subject I wanted to. One summer I was studying anthropology in Kenya, the next Archaeology at Oxford. All the experiences were amazing, but some were suffocating. Rules, rules, and more rules. In Kenya, one girl came with her mom, and I wish my dad had come along with me. He wasn’t able to, but he did buy a Kenya guide book and followed the routes we were taking as we traversed the Masaai Mara.
By the time I was 19, I was on my fifth passport and had been to over 20 countries. I wanted to keep traveling, keep learning, and keep meeting people. Eventually, I worked in the UK and ended up in Los Angeles, as I mentioned. And now, my family and I are traveling like I did. The cycle returns!
What did I learn from all the traveling I did as a child?
1.) That we are all the same. We may appear to be different, but there is beauty and suffering everywhere. It just takes different forms.
2.) that cliques and rules tear people and society down. Every country has its memes, only some are more open to people who are different. The Native Americans wanted to share their land with the Europeans. They did not understand that the invading people wanted to keep it for themselves, and thus they lost everything. This constant killer consumer attitude is our downfall. Travel can’t cure evil but it can kill an ego. Maybe people will buy less if they see where they are buying it from.
3.) that if you change a person’s environment, you change the person. Not completely, but close. So a person who is unhappy in one place may be much happier by a change of location. This is due to the people living their, the culture. Is the culture more friendly? Well, there you go.
4.) that travel is by far the best education available. Even if you don’t travel very far from your hometown.
5.) that sadly, large corporations and governments do not want the 3rd world to rise and become a first world; they want to hold them down. I stress that whatever you hear on the news about some conference or politician’s speech, or statistics, are false. Go to a 3rd world country and learn from the people there. Also, watch what the IMF does.
6.) that you can make a difference in this world. You are not a drone. Everyone matters, not just the elite or people from 1st world countries. There are crimes going on worldwide that we must stand together to fight.
7.) that food is so important, on many, many levels. It brings people together. It nourishes and gives life, or curses and brings disease. Food should be shared an enjoyed. Cooking is incredibly important as well, especially for a family.
8.) that the world’s future depends on us thinking outside of the box, and not being indoctrinated.
9.) that we can all get along. That the world does not have to be the way that it is. That if we can have just media, which is happening because of the internet, we can learn the truth about the world and not believe lies.
10.) That love, really, is all you need.