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Wanderlust

This past weekend I was in Los Angeles to visit my brother. One of the reasons for the visit was also to see a band that we both grew up loving, Echo and the Bunnymen. While I had last seen them when I was in high school, for him it was his first time. We both love going to concerts, he sees so many more than me, being right there in LA where so many fabulous musicians tour, yet this was our first ever concert together, after all these years!


This was also my first time back to Los Angeles in TWENTY years where I was not there for work nor in mom-mode traveling with my son and being responsible for someone else. It was surreal to be honest. And a BLAST, getting to revisit the music and culture of my youth all in the place where I grew up. Time seemed to fold in on itself and I was both young and not, the years erased, carefree and wild, but also witnessing it all through the lens of being older and wiser, feeling like a teenager again but nostalgic and reflective at the same time, a witness to the realities of how fast life speeds by and how short life actually is.


Going back to Los Angeles gives me a feeling of adventure and newness. The city is entirely comfortable to me. I learned to drive there in all that sprawling madness of concrete, where we even use an article when referring to freeways ~ because there so damn many of them ~ that is unique to southern California, you take the 5, the 101, the 405. I haven't lived there for 30 years, and it's changed a lot in that time, but it's still home in a way, and despite all the changes, admittedly, because of them, it's always so fun to be there again. There's always something new to see and experience.



Another thing I love about visiting Los Angeles is that I love to travel. It's been a part of who I am for a very long time. Maybe I got my wanderlust spirit from my parents. Both of them, independently of each other, left their homes and families on the east coast and with friends set off to live in the Mad Men era of Los Angeles in the 60's. My mom told me the story many times of how she had to learn to drive a stick shift in a convertible Mustang as she and her friend drove across the country, top down, wind in their hair. So NOT the mom I knew growing up, or even the mom I knew when I was an adult, when she was older and way more subdued and settled. But thanks to that show, and my parents photo albums, it's easy to imagine their lives at that time, in their twenties, discovering such a different life on the west coast from what they had known growing up back east, being young and adventurous, experiencing life through a new lens.


As a kid growing up we usually took an annual summer vacation, whether that was camping with friends or exploring southern California with visiting family. One year, with Grandma coming by herself all the way from New York, we went to San Diego and even across the border to Tijuana, Mexico for the day. It was on that trip that I remember asserting myself for the first time, to stand up for something that was really important to me. I was seven, so it was over a pair of shoes, so you know, there's that, but I was allowed to pick out a pair of shoes as a souvenir, and I really wanted some pretty hand tooled leather sandals. My mom though, ever the practical one, wanted me to choose a pair of moccasins for some costume or other she was planning for an event she and I were going to, something like that. But I stood my ground and got the sandals. It became engrained in my memory as one of those significant childhood moments where you first learn about your own identity separate from your parents. That we are our own person, but that we may or may not be encouraged in that independence of thought and action, but is a time when we are setting the foundation for our path through life, for better or worse.

Me age 7 with my Grandma Irene, my dad's mom, at the San Diego Zoo.

We also took the requisite family road trips, our nuclear family of four ~ my parents, my younger brother and me, ala the Griswolds ~ piled into the Oldsmobile, packed to the gills. One year we drove all the way to Chicago to visit my grandparents. My strongest memory of that trip was not seeing the Grand Canyon, nor was it being able to be in four different states all at once (the four-corner states: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico). No, it was at a rest stop in Oklahoma, and the bathroom floor was entirely covered in grasshoppers, but for this eight year old they could have been cockroaches for all I cared, there was no way I was going into that bathroom. I HATED bugs as a kid. Now? I rescue spiders from inside my house and set them free outside, even black widows. So, as the saying goes, you just never know.


Another year, when I was old enough to have my learner's permit and helped with the driving, we explored and visited different family friends in northern California. We actually spent a weekend just 20 miles from where I now live. It was the year Prince's Purple Rain came out, the movie and the album, and on that trip I accidently snuck into the movie. I had thought that someone else in the group I was with had bought my ticket and I was going to pay them once we got inside. I'm still not sure how I managed that. I sat through the entire movie assuming at some point someone would come over and haul me out and I'd be in big trouble. But no one noticed, though I did manage to impress the four other teens I was with that, who, except for the family friend, I barely knew. A shining moment of accidental teenage rebellion. Lol.


Seriously, an Oldsmobile station wagon.

My first trip by myself was at twenty years old to visit my high school friend who had moved to Japan and was working at Tokyo Disneyland. I clearly remember the flight, it was on a Brazilian airline, Varig, and so everything was in three languages, Portuguese, Japanese and English. And I thought that was the greatest thing ever. That may have been an indicator right there. I fell in LOVE with every single thing about that trip: the food, the language, learning so much about cultures and people and customs, and the sense of adventure in going somewhere so different from what I knew back home.

There have been many, many more trips since then, backpacking through Asia for four months, living and working abroad, and also instilling that sense of adventure in my son, making sure to expose him to different places and cultures too.


But I don't have to travel overseas to experience that sense of adventure. I can pack my carry-on and go away for a weekend and still love all the aliveness that it brings. Getting out of my routines and comfort zone, seeing some place from a fresh perspective, being slightly disoriented from not knowing exactly where I am... all of this makes me come alive. It wakes me up. It revitalizes me. I see the world ~ and my surroundings ~ anew.

Granted, I've lived in a small, quiet, rural area for 25 years now, so getting to visit a city, any city, is exciting for me. I love the busyness, the diversity, the depth of experiences you can have that small towns just don't offer up. There is a certain sameness and homogeneousness that pervades in a small town, and though diversity does exist, absolutely it does, it's less obvious, and sometimes even intentionally tucked away and private for reasons of lack of acceptance and fear. I definitely appreciate the opportunity of having my mind expanded in new ways whenever I spend any amount of time in an urban area. Growing up in one probably shaped that part of me.


At the same time, it's hard to be in a world of climate changes and challenges, where our carbon footprints are heavily weighed and analyzed. I want to do the right thing and not be contributing to harming this planet we call home any more than I need to. I'm also very aware of the privilege I have of being able to travel to so many places so easily, both because of financial means and because I have a US passport, which brings with it fewer visas and restrictions than other people from other countries have. Additionally, given my white, northern European heritage, I am acutely aware of the historical and continuing effects of colonialism and settler colonialism and the consequences thereof. So I weigh all of this conscientiously whenever I set off on another adventure. Yet, it's the wanderlust itself that helps me experience, understand, stay open to, and embrace the world from multiple and diverse perspectives and experiences.


I'm infinitely curious about all that is different from what I currently know to be true. Traveling brings out that side of me, I am a forever student of life, I want to be learning and growing until the day I die. Revisiting places I once knew, visiting new places, exploring places in foreign lands, all of this, fills me with such joy. I guess my hope is that by sharing my experiences, my perspectives on remaining open to anyone and anything different from what I might have known growing up or from who I am right now, will inspire others to do the same. To open their eyes to the beauty of this world and to all it has to offer. That we as humans, as living, breathing beings, are actually much more the same than we are different.



 

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