Confession: I love to travel. It isn’t surprising. I was born from travel. It’s in my blood—if my father hadn’t left Spain for America in the 1970s, he wouldn’t have met my mother. If my mother hadn’t spent the previous year studying abroad, they wouldn’t have been able to communicate (her Spanish was far better than his English at the time). I find it difficult to understand people who don’t have the same urge to visit as many places as possible. I know that travel isn’t for everyone, but what is it about my life that makes it so necessary? Why is it that when I imagine a reality in which I couldn’t leave California, I tense up and get knots in my stomach?
My first experience with travel was at 18 months old. My mother describes traveling with a baby as one of the most exhausting things she’s ever done, but I must say I’m glad for it. While I can’t possibly remember anything from that first trip to Spain, it was the beginning of my love affair with travel. They took me back again, and again, at 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, and so on. Although the purpose of the trips was to visit my grandparents, Mommy and Popi always tried to make sure that I saw and experienced as much as possible. Our trips often included France and Switzerland, and on occasion Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. As a kid, I was very aware that most children my age, and from my socio-economic bracket, didn’t have experiences like I did. My parents scrimped and saved for these chances to travel, and I grew up in an atmosphere where it was both craved and valued. It was a privilege to go abroad, something that my parents had earned with hard work, and were passing along to me.
Even when we weren’t traveling, our house was full of the essence of it. Books, TV shows, you name it—we had it. I used to spend hours studying the large globe in my father’s study, imagining where else I would like to go. I was imbued with wanderlust, fernweh, an ache and homesickness for places I’d never been. It got stronger and stronger with each trip, and as I grew I appreciated my unique opportunities more and more.
I have lived in Spain for various summers, studied there, been ensconced within the mother culture that I love dearly. During the past year, I lived in London. And, God-willing, I will continue to travel and experience countries that I’ve only encountered in books and National Geographic. Because if I didn’t, I think that a part of me would probably shrivel up and feel useless. Travel is a part of me, and I don’t have any plans to fight it. And honestly, when you have fernweh, you don’t want to fight it—you let it, with all its longing and impulsiveness and intensity, sweep over you and change the way you see the world.