Earlier in the travel season, I wrote a piece about how the percentage of American’s who travel internationally annually is low. However, my earliest memories of travel take place in Colombia, Canada, Mexico and South America. And through the years these earliest memories have fostered such a passion for other cultures, people, foods, wines and scenery that I cannot imagine a life without travel playing a rich part of my life.
It was the great Maya Angelou who said, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” And that is what traveling should be about – making friends, understanding and seeing new things and people, and expanding the mind and our own personal universe. Once you embark on a life of travel, it is life altering.
My earliest memory overseas was in Colombia. My grandmother and her family lived in a small village on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. I was very young when my sister, father and mother went to visit her family. I remember uncles and a very loving aunt. And, I remember my tall grandmother who was the mistress of her domain.
Part of this memory includes my sister and I venturing into the chicken coop. As girls from New York, we had never seen chickens in their pens. I remember asking my dad why they were in pens and he told me they were producing eggs and a little like magic, he was able to find a chicken that was nestled on top of her eggs. I remember the noise, the flying feathers, the heat and the disorientation and wonderment of being in something so foreign.
The next thing I recall is being near a half door in a kitchen that was open at the top. I scanned out over dirt and a large turkey running around. Again, I asked my father what the turkey was doing outside by himself and I wondered if I could play with him. But no sooner had I asked that question than I heard my grandmother’s husky and booming voice summoning one of her workers. She directed a few quick words in Spanish to him and next thing you know, he walked swiftly passed the door and my father and mother were hurrying us inside to the main house. I sensed something was happening. I was not sure what, but a bad feeling lingered in the air. Needless to say, that turkey I wanted to play with became our dinner that evening.
If I had not traveled outside of New York, I would have never had the experience of being in a South American country, in a little town, on a small farm – learning my first lessons about life and death.
A number of years later, my family lived in Argentina. And as far as I am concerned, there is life before and post-Alfonsín. I remember going through the streets of Argentina in a taxi when the British were at war over the Falkland Islands, or as the Argentines called them, Las Islas Malvinas.
Some of our experiences were not very good as the United States was on the side of the British and when we were stopped one time by the police and asked to produce documents, it was a very tense time as we sat in the taxi waiting for the policeman to throw the U.S. passports literally back in our faces after he gave us a few very crass and choice words about what he thought about Americans.
Yet, one of my fondest and mind-altering moments happened in Buenos Aires and it is a country I very much adore all of these years later. On December 10, 1983, I had the great fortune to be with my family the night that Raúl Alfonsín was the first democratically elected president following the military government.
I remember it being late at night and we heard what at first we thought were riots, but then was clearly joy. It seemed that hot night that the whole city, the whole county had poured onto the streets. I recall pulling up the wooden shades and opening the doors of our living room windows that led onto our balconies. The thunderous roar of the crowds below. The music. The lights cut through the darkness. A new day had dawned in Argentina and I was fortunate enough with my family to be witnessing the re-birth of a nation as it celebrated the early moments of its new destiny.
My parents did their best as my sister and I grew up – and sometimes they did not. However, one of the greatest gifts they instilled in me was the gift of curiosity and wanting to see the world beyond the city where I lived. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Posted: June 24, 2014
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