Like many people my age, travel wasn’t a big part of my experience growing up. Our family vacations consisted of road trips and camping. The one epic journey of my childhood was when I was twelve, and all seven of us spent five weeks in a van, driving through “thirty-two states two foreign countries* and the District of Columbia” ~ a phrase we parroted to all who would listen (*Canada and Mexico).

Let it be stated that most of these places were mere “cross the border so we can say we were there” destinations.  Although after driving over the boarder into Mexico, my dad saw that gas was slightly cheaper than in the US, so he decided to fill up the tank before returning to the states.  He didn’t realize til after he’d pumped it that the price was per liter, not gallon. Oops!

So we gerrymandered our way all across America, camping at night unless we were crashing at the home of some acquaintance or distant relative.  We bought groceries and prepared meals and snacks enroute.   We never ate at restaurants, but during a large gathering of extended family on the east coast, a great uncle went to McDonalds to pick up some burgers for dinner.  “I’d like fifty hamburgers and fifty cheeseburgers” he informed the employee.  She looked at him standing there all alone and asked “will that be to go?” No ma’am, I’m going to eat them all right here”.  We thought that was a hilarious story.

I’m not quite sure where my wanderlust came from, but somewhere along the line I fell in love with travel.  When I found out that Travel and Tourism was a major at BYU, I was exceedingly astonished. “You can DO that?!” I asked my guidance counsellor.  I mean, it seemed too fun, like majoring in Chocolate or something.  Wasn’t school supposed to be onerous?

I never aspired to become a flight attendant.  In fact, during college I boldly stated “I’d never become a flight attendant; they’re just glorified waitresses trapped in a metal tube and they don’t even get tips.”  I obviously had no idea what being a flight attendant entailed.  I also thought the directive to secure your own mask first before assisting others was super selfish, “I’ll just hold my breath while I help others”. You could rightly say I was clueless.

I’d worked at a hotel before my marriage, but the first time I ever stayed in one was my wedding night. I’d worked in several nice restaurants, too, but growing up we just really didn’t eat out except for the annual “birthday breakfast with dad to IHOP or Denny’s” excursion. That meant Dad got to go out five times a year…which thing I was slightly jealous of.

So it’s safe to say I wasn’t really exposed to much in terms of Other Ways To Live.  But one of the things I love most about my job as a flight attendant is that it has given me a few opportunities to go places and experience some of the different ways we humans have of living, worshiping, eating, being, relating. I really wish I’d had these kinds of experiences at a much younger age, because it’s so easy to operate with the assumption that your way of living is the “right” way, simply because it’s what you know.

Traveling to other lands and seeing other “right” ways of living has helped me to have a healthier perspective, become less-judgmental, and gain an appreciation for the variety of cultures, and a deeper sense of gratitude for the things I that I enjoy. I’ve seen some of the poorest homes filled with genuinely happy people. Generous beyond belief, they are an example to me in many ways.

I recently returned from a visit to my sister’s inlaw’s home. I didn’t speak any of the languages they spoke so there was much smiling, nodding and pantomiming when my sister weasn’t around to translate. But the love and welcome I felt from them was incredible. Things that we think of as imperative aspects of life (e.g. sanitation, screens and doors to keep out the bugs and animals, soap and water or at the very least, hand sanitizer on a regular basis) are non-existent in their lives, and there are a lot of things that I know I would find annoying initially if I lived there (e.g.: I could happily live without roosters and stray dogs everywhere), but I found my perspective shifting as I spent time among the people.

I still love eating out, and staying in hotels, and that’s okay. But the chance to experience life with the locals was a priceless gift that I wouldn’t trade. It’s made me more grateful and thoughtful about my own choices and life.

How has visiting other places broadened your life? Have you been anywhere that you think should be on everyone’s “Must See” list? Any advice or tips for others you’d like to share?

9 Comments

  1. Melanie

    October 23, 2012

    I identify with this a lot. Although my family wasn’t quite as big, our vacations were mostly limited to Provo to visit Grandma and Grandpa and the annual trip to Disneyland (which we could afford annually only because my uncle worked there and we got in free).

    As a Humanities major I had this fear that the Second Coming would happen before I had a chance to get to Europe, and all of the beautiful but worldly man-made creations would be destroyed. That sounds funny now that I think back upon it, but it really was a legitimate fear! (I made it to Europe for the first time in 2001.)

    As an adult, a single-for-longer-than-expected adult, I have a passion for travel that I get to indulge quite frequently. Rather than regret the fact that I wasn’t exposed to foreign countries and cultures at a younger age, I love that I was able to discover my love for travel and art on my own. Travel certainly has broadened my perspective and worldview, but perhaps of most impact, discovering these passions has been part of finding – understanding – my own identity.

    My two favorite cities (that I’ve visited so far) are Istanbul and Prague.

  2. Janell

    October 23, 2012

    Things I hope my child(ren) may one day see, so we can transpose that to a “must see” list.

    * Jerusalem, particularly the Western Wall – Jerusalem for it’s many examples of religious devotion and worship

    * a McDonald’s in China – yes, you should see the wonderful culture and historical highlights of the country, but it’s the McDonald’s where I felt the contrast of Chinese and Western cultures most keenly

    * New York City – for its immense diversity of ethnic backgrounds all rubbing shoulders

  3. brittney

    October 23, 2012

    it’s actually a little bit hard for me to articulate all the ways in which seeing even little bits of the world has shaped who i am and how i live my life, but i might go so far as to say that it’s second only to the gospel in its effect. certainly this is true of my travels through the developing world. life is lived pretty simply in lots of places, and the mister and i have tried to remember and implement that simplicity in correlative ways here at home.

    and then there’s the magic of beautiful places–places haunted by history, biomes that seem to be of another world. silly, but snorkeling for the first time in the Virgin Islands was like entering a secret, delightful chamber of God’s imagination. it was like a gift.

    i guess, what i want to say, dear blue, is yes to seeing this incredible world (not that your post was an invitation, but would that it were!). i wish we could all take an enormous trip!

    two places i’ll never recover from (in all the best ways): Stockholm, Sweden and Cartagena, Colombia. anyone who can should go.

  4. Sarita

    October 23, 2012

    Loved your description of flight attendants! I was always pretty sheltered in the northwest arctic of Alaska and I thought it was the worst fate ever. I couldn’t wait to leave! When we moved away for a year while I was in 8th grade, I realized how much I really loved home. Worldly traveling has changed my perspective of my tiny AK town for better, for which I’m grateful. And AK should be on everyone’s list, but the part where I’m from. Go to the southeast, Sitka and Ketchikan. Funny side note: I had a roommate at byu who recently visited southeast AK. The pics on her blog looked like Iceland and I was jealous Bec I’ve lived in AK all my life and never seen what she did. Maybe someday…

  5. Amos

    October 23, 2012

    Our kids aren’t growing up with fancy trips to foreign countries–we can’t afford it either. I am not letting that stop me from providing them with the kind of eye-opening experiences you describe. Travel is all about exploration, when done right. I love road trips–but if you stay on the freeway, the entire country looks exactly the same and every restaurant (we do eat at those sometimes) serves exactly the same lousy food. On every trip we take, we try to spend some time on smaller roads. Memories of the last decade include:
    A winding drive through the mountains of West Virginia–the contrast between the natural beauty and the poverty there was astounding.
    A wrong turn in the middle of Wyoming that led us through parts of the Wind River Reservation.
    A drive this summer through the Western mountains of Colorado when we didn’t even see another car, much less a house or a person, for over two hours.
    Randomly stopping at a state park in Oklahoma for a potty break, hiking down to an amazing waterfall in a sinkhole and learning that it was where “Where the Red Fern Grows” was filmed.
    Trips to New York City, Whitby Island, Lake Superior, Washington D.C, San Antonio, the Oregon Coast, and a side trip to see the giant cheese sculpture in Cheshire, Massachusetts. All roadtrips, all dirt cheap, all amazing, all totally different. And, I hope in the process, our family will never have a fear of the different.

  6. Allison

    October 23, 2012

    My husband and I have been married with no kids for much longer than planned so while we wait for other blessings, we travel whenever we get the chance. I’ve seen such beauty and met such inspiring people across the globe. Two of the places that changed me most were Morocco (seeing the culture and religion there was so inspiring and our night spent in a tent in the Sahara desert will be a life highlight) and New Zealand. New Zealand had some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen (and we missed the whole southern island which is really supposed to be amazing). There I gained a greater belief that Heavenly Father didn’t have to create such a beautiful world, but He did it to bring us joy. Plus the language was easy to navigate and it was super family-friendly so we plan to head back with our future children.

    Our travel philosophy is to plan, research, then plan more before we go, but keep a flexible schedule and “only do good things” each day because there’s no way to do everything. For us this usually means skipping most museums in search of a great bakery we read about …

  7. Juliana

    October 26, 2012

    Wonderful post! I’m woefully under-travelled, but my favorite so far would have to be Alaska. I had dreamed of visiting AK for so long, and when I finally spent a summer in the bush, it surpassed my expectations.

  8. Natsy

    October 27, 2012

    Loved this post. Traveling has definitely shaped a huge part of who I am. I love visiting new places and I always grow because of it. I always tell students starting college to go on study abroads – don’t worry about the money, take out a loan and go live!

    I did a study abroad in New Zealand (totally agree with Allison – one of the most amazing, beautiful places in the world). We lived with a Samoan family, the Kiwis taught me that: life should always be fun, chips (aka french fries) should be served with every meal, and that life is really about the people you meet and the moments you share.

    I also learned something else. My small group of study abroad students was preparing to go stay a few days in Rotorua, a beautiful, historical place known for it’s natural hot springs. We were mystified to discover that most of the people we were staying with had never been there! We were all thrilled – we were going to visit a Maori natural park, go zorbing, tube through glow worm caves and see things that you can only do at that one place in the whole world and these people had never been and they only lived two hours away.

    It made me reconsider my own view of home. I grew up in Utah and every spring break we would take off with all the cousins and camp at the beautiful national parks throughout the state, but many of my friends had never seen them. Then I thought about all the places in Utah and the surrounding states that I had never seen and just taken for granted. I made a goal right there to find the beauty of home.

    I love traveling the world, but I also love traveling close to home. There is magic everywhere.

  9. Jennie L

    November 3, 2012

    I have the travel bug too – it completely changes you and gets you out of your bubble! But oh how it is hard to get away from the pull of work, responsibilities, on and on. I love your description of a flight attendant! Hilarious. You, my friend are way more than a glorified waitress! xo

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