We’re spending the winter holiday away from home. I often hear myself explaining away our frequent travel by saying, ‘Someday as our daughter gets older, we’ll start celebrating at home,’ but the truth is, I think travel is the greatest gift. Rather than stay home to avoid lugging stuff, we are a family that prefers to accumulate less and hit the road. The gift of travel is one I love to give, and my little nomad, too, seems to like receiving it. When she dons her jammies and cozy headphones for a nighttime trip across the pond or out to the American West, she seems to enjoy the ride.
Not to say meltdowns don’t happen. She’s been both an angel and hellion on airplanes, including that memorable day we flew nine hours across the Atlantic without one working screen for distraction. Yet knowing how the people and places of Italy seeped into her narrative that week, I’d do it all over again tomorrow. Italy loves its children, and I will not be surprised if these little ones are studying in Siena or Florence years from now, telling new friends about the long, summer days they once spent in Tuscany as kids. May the pull of the Palio continue to captivate them like it did the first time they saw school children from each contrada enter Siena’s piazza, singing at the top of their lungs. Already, my little nomad has met kind souls abroad who have left an indelible impression — people like restaurant owner Roberto who held her tiny hand across Mensano’s narrow street to pick out an after dinner ice cream treat, or chef Vardo who invited her to visit his chickens as he prepared dinner for us at the farm he’s lived on since birth. My little nomad was blown away seeing Pippo’s dome from her storybook in real life. She squealed, “This is a great adventure!” as we kayaked in the lagoons of the Meditteranean at Castiglioncello Beach.
Yes, I’d do it all over again tomorrow, flight time and all. And we will again, later this week. A shorter, domestic journey awaits, and I realize that the beauty of growing up accustomed to long flights is that a four hour plane ride now seems relatively short. A few more sleeps and she’ll bounce through the terminal again in her tiny green pack, eager to greet the evening’s pilot.
We can extract countless lessons from this tumultuous year now coming to a close. One that’s relevant here is the constant need to keep our eyes open to the world around us, to venture out and visit people and cultures unlike our own. Even taking a few baby steps out of our comfort zones and exposing our families to someplace new is a start.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” wrote Mark Twain. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Here we go again. We’re off.
-Dec. 18, 2017