Before 2012, I’d not left the United States. Actually, that’s not entirely true: my wife and I did go up to Vancouver, BC once but they wouldn’t stamp my passport. Even after I asked nicely. Besides, Canada doesn’t feel that different from the US (sorry, Canadians).
So, that trip in 2012. Upon the news that my wife was pregnant with our first child I developed a sense of dread that we had missed our chance to travel internationally. A few rough years that my wife and I had as a couple during and after the 2008 recession—perhaps as a form of escapism—cultivated a bit of wanderlust within me that I was sure was going to have to be extinguished after our daughter was born. So with the excuse of a work conference and the blessing of my exceedingly understanding wife, I flew alone to Dublin, Ireland. This trip, while trying for me at the time, ended up being one of the most important experiences of my life. Instead of merely fulfilling a desire that I could now brush aside—as I had intended—it blossomed into a profound longing to experience the rest of the world.
The following year we took our then 7-month old daughter to Italy for a month. We stayed in the quiet, walled, North-Tuscan city of Lucca almost the entire time and pretended to be locals—not very well, though; we barely spoke any Italian.
In 2014, I got a half-baked idea that I should visit a good friend that was living in Tanzania. In a failed attempt to save on travel costs, I found myself in Paris and Amsterdam while getting there, and then back to Amsterdam and then to York and Manchester on the return home. I’d love to document the story someday as it involves middle-aged prostitutes, train strikes, getting stuck in the mud within lion territory, unplanned ferry rides across the North Sea, mulled wine and many pints of English ales. Every time that I attempt to document this trip, however, I feel that I reduce the trek down to mere gloating.
I’ve developed a fondness for those first two countries that I visited: Ireland and Italy. I’ve been back to both a few times. Sometimes as a lone traveler, other times as a couple, and we’ve even been to Ireland as an entire family (although Liam was still in the womb). Traveling is certainly one of the loves of my life and is something that is on my mind constantly. It is an exceptionally expensive hobby but its hard to quantify the profound personal growth that I experience each trip that I take. So I keep doing it.