Before girlfriends and boyfriends and shacking up with Bae, there was The World.
I don't remember my first flight, it was likely in utero, but I do have early memories of my first flights alone, flying back and forth from Nashville to Texas or Florida to visit family. I was one of those kids with a bulky "Unaccompanied Minor" tag hanging around her neck for years, carefully dropped at the gate to be watched over by flight attendants until an approved adult could collect me on the other side. I don't remember being afraid, although I might have been. I do remember feeling utterly swept off my feet. Hopelessly, rapturously, passionately in love with being "on my way". Leaving home, being on the road, seeing new places, living in different cities, hearing languages and accents, walking through history and culture and nature unlike my own... this is still the thing that makes me feel fully alive.
My family has always been solidly middle class. We drive used cars, we have cozy, modest homes, we save more than we splurge... but by God, we love to travel. Any good fortune we have had to see the world has not been because of extravagant wealth, although I certainly understand and appreciate the privilege of being able to travel. No, we were able to travel as a family growing up because my dad's job kept him in good standing and many thousands of miles with American Airlines. Because of his work, the currency of which we did have plenty- and which remains worth more to me than gold- was Frequent Flier miles.
My most treasured childhood memories are on the road. My brother, Alex, and I in the back of our mother's blue Ford Aerostar, and later the red Chevy Astro, quilts and pillows and blankets where the middle bench seat had been, a small portable TV/VCR combo wedged in between the seats up front. I couldn't tell you how many times we watched Mulan, or how many Ding Dongs we went through on those drives. We would pile into the back of the van, carefully construct our nests of pillows and Gameboys and handmade quilts, and watch as Tennessee or Texas, Alabama or Arkansas flew by.
Sometimes, if dad had flown enough for work that year, we would pack up and fly someplace wild and magical like Santa Barbara. One year, what we thought would be an exotic Caribbean vacation turned into a rain- soaked week in a cabin on the lake in Norman, Oklahoma. At the time, considering the alternative, we were less impressed. Looking back on it, I wouldn't trade that soggy week cooped up in that cabin with my people for anything. It was paradise. (PS: Remember paddle boats, and the bacon in the microwave that caught fire? "Look at it! Look at it!")
For me, and maybe for all of us in the Jackson gypsy wagon, it wasn't ever necessarily about where we were going. The rush, the adrenaline, the dopamine surge always came from the act of going itself. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with the going. The being in new places. The exploring and the colors and the tastes and smells and textures and pure sensuality of it all. I am in fully love with The World, and most alive when I'm getting to know her better. Wanderlust, some call it. It's deep and powerful and insatiable, like the best kind of high.
So, I'm headed to explore and feel and experience a part of her I haven't, yet. I'm going to Southeast Asia, on a one way ticket to spend some time with my First Love, again. I'm going to get to know the mountains and the trees and the waterfalls, but also the people and the history. I don't have much planned, but I'm taking my camera and a mic. I'm going to talk to as many people as I can, and share their stories with you. I'll start in Thailand and see where the road takes me. I have some ideas, some contacts, some great advice from travel bloggers I follow, but I'm letting the Wanderlust in my gut take the lead. She hasn't let me down, yet.
I can't wait to share this new adventure and the stories of people I meet on the road. If you know someone living or working or creating in that part of the world, and you think we should meet, I would love to hear from you!
I hope you'll stay in touch and follow along!