Pictured: Grandma Patricia, year unknown
The one thing I recall of my paternal grandmother’s home is a giant map of the world. It hung on a pink wall above a brass day bed. The map had a complex system of pin flags to show how many times Grandma had been to a country and with whom she had travelled.
Grandma experienced the Golden Age of Travel. She ate on fancy steam ships with white-gloved waiters and black-tie dinners. She experienced the novelty of flight, with food plated on china, finely dressed passengers and what must have been a glorious amount of leg room.
It’s hard not to be a romanticist when envisioning Bangkok in the 1940’s, Kyoto in the 1950’s, Greece in the 1960’s. My grandmother saw these places and many others long before the backpackers showed up. She set out to experience adventure, experience the world.
The worn down, sepia toned photos of her journeys don’t speak of a car stuck in the mud in the middle of the jungle, of being held up by the local authorities waiting for travel papers to be verified. They don’t speak of people turning around to gawk at her pale skin, of invitations into homes, of meals shared with strangers. Due to the complexities of family, I never got to ask my grandmother about her adventures. She kept no known diary of her travels. While she passed down the travel bug, I long for some written account of her experiences.
If done correctly, travel forever changes one’s perspective on their own life. Like my grandmother, I want to visit places that are out-of-the-way. Places that cause me discomfort to get to. Places where I may be served snake of questionable freshness or need to pee behind a date tree in an oasis. To live beyond pictures in magazines, to experience how others spend their days and nights.
As I fill out my own world map, I find myself having experiences that are often funny, sometimes strange, frequently incredible, and occassionally scary.
As I’m sure it found my grandmother, adventure finds me. This is my record. These are my stories.