Head full of doubt, road full of promise

Today I had one of those moments when you realize you’re becoming your parents. I usually love those; I’m perfectly content as an almost-perfect hybrid of my homebody mom and dreamer dad. But I’m afraid even my dad would be disappointed by today’s epiphany.

I don’t recall specifically how we got there, but this afternoon my boss, a coworker and I were in my boss’ office, listening to her stories of visiting the Czech Republic and Slovakia. As she rhapsodized about towns frozen in time and picturesque scenery that seemed straight off a set for Cinderella, I suddenly realized: I may never see these things myself. I may never travel outside of my own country. I may have already become my parents.

My dad, in particular, is bothered by his lack of travel experience. I barely remember a family trip to the Birmingham International Airport when I was just a tiny thing. Daddy was off to Michigan for a church mission trip, and I stood at the window, waving goodbye.

For the longest time, that was the most exotic trip I could recall my dad taking. Last year he accepted a new job that required him to spend two weeks in Denver for training. He was nervous about the cold and not particularly excited about the trip. But Mom was thinking of flying out for a long weekend to visit, and I did my best to convince them that this was the best idea they’d had in a long time. I’ve been to and through Colorado several times, and a long weekend in Telluride was one of the most magical experiences of my still-young life. (Plus, that dry cold really is different. Even to this Alabama-born, Florida-raised girl, it wasn’t so bad.) Mom and Dad listened to my advice, and sure enough they had a wonderful weekend.

Earlier this year, he was flying back west for more training. It was a week or so after I spent a day in Washington, D.C., and Dad just happened to have a layover in Dulles International Airport. It didn’t take much to persuade him to leave the airport, take public transit to the National Mall and at least spend a few minutes taking in the nation’s capitol. He agreed that a glimpse of D.C. was worth returning to airport security.

There’s so much my dad still wants to see. He’s never even been to New York City to visit my younger sister. But with a mortgage, bills and a kid still in high school (for seven more months), travel hasn’t been in the cards.

And though I take after my mom’s homebody tendencies–I’ll spend part of my upcoming vacation sitting on my couch with a stack of books–there’s so much world out there that I want to experience. It costs money, though, so much more than I have been able to set aside for such an occasion. My travels have taken me to New York, Seattle, San Diego and Telluride, but save for a few hours in Cozumel, those trips may not take me beyond our nation’s borders.

My mental to-save-for list is too long for my liking. The rainy day fund will never be big enough to make me feel secure. I suppose that’s life for a worrier. But I also hope to save for a car to eventually replace my ’99 sedan. One day I might like to buy a house. Or a couch. I may someday get married, and I don’t expect Mom and Dad to spring for that occasion. I’m not going to begin saving for college funds for unborn children from an unmet husband, but I will say it seems sometimes that the list of reasons to save could stretch out endlessly.

So where does a trip to Europe fit in? How do I make my way to Bali, and the little town my friend Jamie insists would be my southeastern Asia spot? Will I ever visit friends in Africa? Even if I muster the courage to spend weeks in Mexico, trying to understand the conditions that lead people to risk everything to immigrate to the United States, legally or not, would I have the means to do so?

As with anything in life, it’s easier to accept failure than to try and risk success. But if I’m going to tackle any of my dream list, I’ve got to make squirelling money away a higher priority. I’ve taken a month off of eating out, and that may be a start. But there’s so much happening in this city, and so much that’s free or cheap, that I’ve got no excuse for not trying a little harder. I think it would make my mom and daddy proud.

7 Comments

Filed under Autobiography, Insecurity, Travel

7 Responses to Head full of doubt, road full of promise

  1. Oh gracious, there’s a lot of myself in what you wrote. However, instead of wanting to fly to Asia I find myself wondering what a particular bend of the river would look like on a perfect spring morning and whether I’ll ever see it. Our car flashed past bluffs on the Missouri River that called out for a childhood spent catching fireflies in jars along the river to light our way home across the rolling fields. I have glimpsed a thousand perfect moments in my fleeting trips across the country. I have walked over mountains and found even that pace too fast to absorb the beauty in front of me. With so many places to see in this country (Denali? Yellowstone? Glacier? Arcadia?) I can’t afford to send my imagination to other continents! That’s why a dozen or so times a year you’ll find me tossing a tent or my backpack in my car to go experience a few more glimmers of unimaginable beauty.

  2. jacksonvillepug

    Seriously, you need to just go travel. My mom and I were the same way, “Do we go to Europe, do we not?” It’s so easy to want to save for the rainy days, so if there is anything I have learned from losing my dad early, it’s that life is too short to NOT go to Europe. 🙂

  3. Sorry, that comment was supposed to be from me, not the Jacksonville PUG. 🙂

  4. CJ, if you go to Europe–well, I’m afraid you might not come back! You would find it so fascinating and exhilarating to see and experience the things you’ve only read about. It really is like walking into a book sometimes.

    I love the mental reset that comes with traveling overseas. I need it every so often to help me take a fresh look at the world, B’ham, life, etc.

  5. inkstainedlife

    Charles, I think it would be overwhelming at first! Besides money, one reason I haven’t been yet is because I would want to go for a WHILE–at least one week in one place, but probably more like two weeks. And it’s hard to make space for that in any life.

    The only time I’ve been out of the country was a cruise to Cozumel. We were in Cozumel for something like six hours. I enjoyed those six hours, but my exposure to other cultures and countries is clearly lacking.

    • It can certainly be overwhelming, especially when you’re beginning to plan an overseas trip. There are just so many possibilities! I narrow it down by thinking of the places I *must* see if my trip to X country is the only one I make. And then I see what can fit into a week or week and a half. I used to take two-week, jam-packed, move-around-every-other-day trips, but now I like to spend as much time in each place as I can.

      What would be your top three spots to visit in Europe?

      • inkstainedlife

        I badly want to visit Edinburgh, Scotland; France (Paris, sure, but elsewhere too); and Prague. I’ve heard so much about Prague.

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