If you asked me to name a few vivid, formative memories, I can describe them in great detail. Here are a few.
The sky is foggy, and the rocks crunch under my parents’ and siblings’ feet as we walk on Utah Beach in Normandy, contemplating what it must have felt like when our grandfather served in the Army years ago. His act of selflessness means freedom today for so many people, and pride for our family as we think of his sacrifice. Hearing the American flags whip in the wind, seeing the otherworldly steep cliffs at Pont du Hoc, and feeling the wooden pews of a church that briefly served as a makeshift hospital with our own hands made our family heritage come to life.
Hot air whipping through my hair as my dad and his best friend pilot a small sailboat off the coast. Salty water sprays us as my sister and I laugh and quietly trade glances, wondering if we will make it back to shore, knowing that our captains aren’t necessarily trained or experienced.
Echoes of our footsteps as we wander through the Vatican, looking at artwork on the walls and wondering how many people have also walked where we are walking and what Michelangelo was feeling and thinking as he sculpted the Pieta, “freeing” the sculpture from the confinements of its large marble block.
Walking across the Carrick A Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland on a clear day with my husband, my parents, and my siblings, marveling at the blue blue skies and the green green grass that Ireland is famous for. We wonder if the vivid colors really exist this clearly anywhere else on earth.
My family laughing as our brother (about two when this happens, grown and in law school now) plays with a hose at the beach. The hose is meant for spraying off your feet before you enter the condo, but to him it is the best toy in the world. He spends all week playing in the sand and then running to the hose hoping to be the one to spray us all off.
My sixteenth birthday at Walt Disney World. We dine at the Coral Reef at Epcot, and a Scuba diver swims over to our table with a laminated sign wishing me a happy birthday. He tosses shells in the air like confetti, and they gracefully float down to the floor, and I marvel at the unexpected moment of celebration.
I think of these memories and many more, and thank God, my parents, and my lucky stars that I have been able to travel. Learning about other people and how they live, learning about our shared history and culture, and also learning about things that are really really different from the equally magical Midwest town where I grew up and currently live, has taught me so many things. History, art, culture, empathy, and understanding are just a few of the things travel has given me. I hope to gain more of all of these through more travel in my lifetime, but even more importantly than that, I now hope to give them to my son Peter as he grows older.
I was recently talking to Small World Big Fun agency owner Cindy Minor, and telling her about how I want to be able to give these experiences to Peter. I am a first time mom, and my husband and I both greatly value travel. We have set aside savings for travel, and we both see the value in prioritizing time and saving up for traveling.
Peter is nine months old now, and as I’m planning out our summer calendar, I started to realize that we really only have so many summers with him before he grows up. And, there are so many places that Rich and I have already talked about taking Peter as he grows. It is important to us that he sees Washington D.C. and its monuments and museums. We want to take him to Normandy when he’s old enough, to see and put concreteness behind the stories we tell him about his grandparents. We’ve already been there, but it is important to us that he has that experience, too. We want to take him to the beach, and to Disney World, so he can learn to laugh and feel joy. I hope that he wants to learn how to Scuba dive, because his dad and I love to do it, and so he learns to value our oceans and have a deep desire to keep our oceans healthy. Someday, I’d love for all of us to go see the Arctic together.
I became a travel agent because I love to travel, and because I have a real passion for researching and helping families find things right for them and the experiences and memories they want to pass on to their own next generation. The word passion here is not used in an idiomatic way; it makes me truly energized and happy to spend hours looking at maps, reviews, and pictures in order to put together options for families. I find it so fulfilling and exciting to educate my clients about all of their choices and to try to find which vacations fit their current life stage. I hope to grow with my clients and their children. If they plan Disney with their elementary school kids now, and maybe Universal once their kids read Harry Potter or see Jurassic Park, my biggest hope is that they’ll call me in a few years when they’re ready to tackle something new. When that day hopefully comes, I will spend hours researching options for them, and be so happy to do so.
All that is to say, while I’m planning out what I want the next eighteen years to look like with my baby boy, I hope that other families are thinking this way as well. Travel is an immense privilege, and I believe it to be formative for both adults and for children to learn about our big, beautiful world and its history and people. We will have about eighteen summers with Peter, and only a few more while he’s tiny, and I am going to make the most of every minute.