I was very young when my mother joined the Army. While attending her graduation from basic training is not my earliest memory, it is one of the first I can recollect without requiring someone to fill in the gaps for me. It was held in South Carolina, a many hours long car trip from our home in rural Alabama, and aside from the occasional journey across the state line for a family reunion, it was the first time my sister and I traveled anywhere.
I still remember the excitement of sitting in the passenger seat with an atlas stretched across my knees, running my finger across the web of highways and streets. Every mile that flew by the window was a mile farther than I had ever been from home. I busied myself reading exits along the road and attempting to locate each city on the map. Every so often, when I tired of riding or my excitement got the better of me, I’d measure the distance with thumb and finger, a crude calculation of miles and minutes.
That trip was the first of many resulting from my mom’s career as a soldier. Her overseas assignment enabled us to travel Europe — Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Italy and more. While some children took a trip to Disney world in the Summer, my mother brought us to see Castle Neuschwantstein.
We were exposed to other cultures, foreign languages, customs that differed from our own. I often wonder what type of woman I would have grown into if instead of spending my childhood here, there, and everywhere we had stayed hunkered down in the small country town where I was born.
Oddly enough, while I love that I was provided the opportunity to see so much of the world growing up, that wanderlust quieted in me after graduating college. I longed to settle down somewhere with the man I loved, buy a home, have children, and just stand still together for a while.
For the last six years we have done just that. Each day I drive past the school from which I graduated. I shop at a grocery store managed by a boy that sat next to me in eleventh grade math class. I have dinner at a local restaurant and sit at the same table my girlfriends and I used to sit at and share a pizza after high school football games.
I smile when I think of my son and daughter forming friendships in pre-school that last them all their lives. I long for the word “stable” to float to the top of their mind when asked as an adult about their childhood. But I also wonder if they’ll reject the monotony of small town living as adults in the same way I have turned from the “on the go” lifestyle of my early childhood.
While it is unlikely that we will pick up and move anytime soon, or possibly ever, my husband and I have committed to traveling with our children. We want them to experience the world beyond the city limits of our small town. Our first big trip will be to Germany to visit the town in which my step-dad was raised and we’re hoping to spend a couple of weeks each Summer in some far away place.
As our children grow older, I am excited to plan our trips and select the location as a family.
How important is travel to your family? Do you believe it is an essential part of raising well-rounded, open-minded adults?
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