I saw a piece over on Huffington Post about 5 women who changed the way we look at travel. Their number five spot was occupied by a woman who truly did help jump start my interest. Carmen Sandiego. This fictional thief had a game and a TV show that I was obsessed with when I was a kid. I used to dig through the atlas to find answers to questions that would help me find her. I learned about currency and flags. I learned about world capitals and places of interest. My world completely opened up because of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?". The HuffPost piece says that Carmen Sandiego taught us that the "world is beautiful and traveling is one big adventure." I would agree with that.
But even before Carmen there was my dad.
God, at an extremely early age my dad inspired me! Stories of his college adventures down in Mexico. His trip to Florida after graduation. His dreams of one day owning a sailboat and taking his family on a trip around the world. That never happened, but his enthusiasm infected at least one of his kids. I share his love of meeting new people. I share his love of maps and curiosity about the world. He encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on, which only spurred my desire to see everything. I never tired of asking him to repeat his stories, and at night I'd close my eyes and dream of tossing some stuff in a backpack and going off on adventures of my own.
Another major inspiration to me as a kid was Indiana Jones. I was only a baby when the first movie came out in 1981, so the first one I saw in the theater was the third (out in 1989). But my parents had already introduced us to Raiders and Temple by that point and I was hooked. The big maps with dots showing where Indy was going (I have maps on my walls at home with red lines showing everywhere I've been, as homage to the maps from Indiana Jones). The amazing locations, exotic and full of interesting food and people and things to look at! As a kid I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be Indiana Jones. No, not to fight Nazis or be an archeologist. But to travel! To meet fascinating people, see exotic places, and have adventures. And yeah, to look awesome in leather jacket and fedora while doing so. *Grins*
And finally, another real-life inspiration in a deeply personal way was my cousin Lesley. *Smiles* I remember her so vividly. I was 12 and she was 24 when I really got to know her. Fresh from backpacking through Europe after university and at loose ends she moved to Alaska from California to try something new. Lesley was everything I wanted to be when I grew up. Smart, and fun, and full of life. Full also of stories and adventures. Willing to try new things and willing to fail. She was outgoing and able to make friends with anybody and everybody, it seemed. (Yes, this trait does run in my family!) Lesley lived in Anchorage only for a few years before she took off again. To hike the Appalachian Trail. Then settled in Seattle, where she continues to live today.
She just seemed to me so confident and sure of herself. I remember at 12 I was nothing like that and with that memory of her as my role model Lesley helped me become the person I am today. Someone willing to follow passions and dreams. Or even randomly occurring fantasies. :)
So there you have it. When you combine natural curiosity with real and fictional people who inspire you... there really is nothing you can do about it. Travel was something I knew I had to do with my life.
Turning 30. That's what did it. Realizing that while I'd seen so much of the United States I still had never traveled out of the country. I'd let fear keep me from doing something I'd always wanted to do. I'd let myself keep saying "you can't afford that" or "you can't do that by yourself." And I finally said "fuck that." Life is not infinite. And you only get one shot at it. I guess I had my mid-life crisis a little early. *Laughs* But there few better ways to handle it than going off and seeing the world. :)