“To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen

I concur.

I credit my parents with instilling the love of travel in me. It seemed like we went on a family vacation every year. Sometimes it was to Colorado or South Dakota – often both in the same trip – to see grandparents. It was long weekends camping and snow skiing. When I was in fifth grade all six of us went to Hawaii. I still remember gnawing on that sugar cane stick the whole week; and I had that puka shell necklace for years. It was the memory of going to the USS Arizona at age 10 that made me want to see it again when I was in Honolulu in my 40s. I was still awed by that memorial decades later.

It wasn’t until my 20s that I got my first passport. I’m on my third one, with this one expiring in a little more than a year. Of course I’ll be getting another one. I notched another stamp last month – Denmark – where my ancestors came from.

Seeing new places is a wonderful education in so many disciplines – cultural, architectural, culinary, social, geography, history, political, to name a few. Most lessons are informal. They come about by listening, talking, exploring, looking, reading, tasting. What I’ve learned could never be taught in a classroom, could never be contained in some textbook. Travel is living. It’s that simple.

What I like best about travel is meeting people. It doesn’t happen every trip. It’s more apt to occur when I’m alone, traveling with one other or a small group. In talking to people outside my normal circle I grow exponentially. It’s like the learning spigot is on full blast. Average people are wonderful; it’s the people in government and the policies that ensue that are often divisive.

Cleo with daughters Kae, Pam and Jann in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2019. (Image: Veronica Wong)

When we get stuck in our routines – often work, family, a little fun, repeat – well, it’s a rut. Travel necessitates leaving the day-to-day rituals behind because it will mean a different bed to wake up in, different food, everything is apt to be different. That’s not to say everything will go smoothly each trip. With the right mindset, though, any challenge can be rewarding. Travel will change you — for the better.

Travel doesn’t have to be to exotic lands. It could be to the town next door, to a neighboring state, or maybe it requires a passport. Travel doesn’t have to test one’s ability to convert your currency to something else, it doesn’t have to mean speaking another language, it doesn’t mean even having to get outside of your comfort zone, nor does it have to be expensive. Travel should be about creating wonderful memories. Even when things don’t go smoothly, later it’s often something to laugh about – at minimum it’s a story worth telling.

Life is too short to maintain the status quo. Go travel. Go explore. Go create memories.

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