Thursday, July 11, 2013

A letter to my nieces and nephews... (And their parents)

To Emily, Elsie, Hugh, Gayatri, Lavanya, Hailey, Charley, Quincy, and Jatindra...

As you're probably aware (or will be once you're old enough to become aware of these things), your Aunt Lori is a bit of a travel nut. I started getting interested in travel when I was only six years old. Grandpa Mike introduced me to maps. And told me stories of HIS adventures. And allowed me to be part of our family's move from Arizona to Alaska by discussing the trip with me every step of the way and going over the maps and working out where we'd be going. He let me ask questions and he always had the atlas out to help me find whatever answers I needed to find. 

I used to spin our globe and close my eyes and stick my finger randomly on the spinning ball to find new and exciting places to look up in the atlas. I also read every book I could get my hands on.

And I dreamed. I dreamed CONSTANTLY! Of far away places. Of places in this country and of places on the other side of the world. Of placed I'd read about in books or seen in movies or places I found by randomly poking at the globe.

The Indiana Jones movies came out when I was a kid, and I dreamed of growing up to BE Indiana Jones. No, I didn't want to be an archeologist, or fight Nazis. I wanted to travel the world and have fascinating adventures and meet interesting people. I wanted a big map of the world and I wanted to draw lines all over the world showing where I had been. And push in pins to indicate all the places I wanted to go.

Travel, in my mind, is essential to being human. It allows you to see and experience how other people live. It opens you to cultures and languages very different from your own. You learn so much and what you learn can be helpful to any career or goal you set for yourself. It teaches you how to adapt to any given situation. It teaches you the values of patience and how to be resilient in the face of adversity. It is also simply quite a lot of fun!

I was 30 the first time I traveled out of the United States. Despite all of those dreams as a child, travel frightened me. I thought, I can't afford this. I thought, I can't do this on my own and no one can go with me. I thought, I'm bipolar with major anxiety disorder... travel is something I can't do.

Well kids... travel is something I can do. It is something anyone can do. And it is something I very much hope you will be given the opportunities to do. And I want to help you do it. I want to help you all know that travel IS something you don't have to just dream about but can accomplish in reality.

With your parents' permission, I want to take you traveling (at some point within a few years after you turn 16). But this isn't a free ride. I expect something in return for this adventure I'll be taking you on.

You will pick where you want to go. If your parents and I decide it is feasible for us, you'll write me an essay on why you want to go there. It doesn't have to be a GOOD reason, but there needs to be something that has inspired you. Hugh told me recently he wants to go to Rome (I too would love to visit Rome, so I'm excited about this if he still wants to go when he's older!). He's 10, and he saw Rome through the game Assassin's Creed and it inspired him. That's a reason! I still want to know what about Rome through the eyes of that game caught his attention, so keep that in mind.

Next... You'll be doing budget research. How much is the trip going to cost? Plane tickets, cost of lodging, cost of transportation while there, meals (spending money will be up to you), etc. To find that stuff out you'll have to dig up guide books and travel websites. I am not made of money so we will be on smaller budgets and won't be staying in fancy hotels, so do your research well. I'll be doing my own research and when we are both done we'll compare notes and figure out the best budget for our trip. 

You'll also be looking up things you'd like to do or see while we're there. We may see everything, we may see none of it, we will likely be somewhere in the middle. But doing the research ahead of time prepares you for whatever may pop up while we're there.

Why am I asking you to do all of this for a trip *I* will be taking *you* on? Ok, the first item is just my own damn curiosity. And also because I want to show you that even the smallest kernel of interest can blossom into something pretty amazing if you let it. But the rest is so you know how to do it yourself when the time comes for you to travel on your own. So you know that this is something you CAN do on your own. And I sincerely hope you will.

It sounds hard. But once you start doing it you really get the hang of it. So practice, even before this trip. Pretend you're going to go on a trip somewhere and plan the trip. I used to, all over the world I visited in my imagination. The Internet is a wonderful thing in helping you do this. Make a list of every place you might possibly want to visit and go read about them. WikiTravel is an awesome resource for a basic introduction to a wide variety of places. Go to the library and check out travel books. Find inspiration any way you can, and hold onto that.

Why am I doing this? Because I can. Because I love you all so much it fires me up and makes me want to help in this small way. I'm not a parent. I'm never going to have kids of my own. This is my choice. I love being your aunt so much. I love being an adult you can always talk to and come to if you need non-parental adult advice. 

Right this second no, I can't afford to be doing this. But I expect by the time you all start coming of age my world will have been back on its feet long enough for me to do this. And so I wanted you to be aware of it in advance, because I want you to dream. I want you to think and wonder where we might go. I want you to open your minds and your curiosity about the world around you. I think it is important.

To my siblings... Hi!

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