Ever since I was a child, I’ve been inflicted with a sense of escape either in the form of make believe or little journeys. I had a whole trunk of old evening gowns and prom dresses that my mom and grandma would occasionally pick up at the thrift store for me to play in. These dresses transformed my world. I could be anybody. My favorite garb was a strappy dark mauve cocktail dress with an A-line skirt. My mom sewed in layers of black tulle under the fabric at the waistline to make the bottom super poufy. I stuck a feather in my bunned hair, sported jet black boots, and kicked my legs high like a saloon girl I saw on a movie dancing the can-can. (All the while being a wee girl still in grade school...certainly a very quaint imagination.) I recycled all my old Halloween costumes and wore them far beyond their October 31 expiration date, often parading around as a mermaid or a witch throughout the entire year.
When at times a painfully shy child, why not be somebody else? Why not escape or hide in a costume? Why not travel to another time, place, state of being through make believe than stay put in the anxiety of typical childhood fears?
But maybe escape isn't the right word? People are often chastised for their escapes. Viewed by some as a weakness, a mental or emotional distraction from the realities of life. But don't we need this too? Too much escape can potentially lead to a dark place but escape also takes you to new realties, new perspectives, introspection, fosters creativity, and builds a sense of awe.
This has lead me to a life of marveling. A life of literature and writing and travel. When I escape from one world, I am visiting another--real or imagined. Whether it is in my head or my feet pushing me off in a magical direction. I will continue welcoming escape to new places and experiences.
My affection for actual, physical travel bloomed just as early on.
Growing up in Ohio, my grandpa would frequently take me to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport to watch the planes take off. In a pre-9/11 world, we could drift all the up to the gates and ogle the jets out the ginormous floor to ceiling windows. I would stand in awe of sheer size of the planes, the bustle of passengers departing and arriving, the smell of the gasoline, the grumble of the engines, the glimpse of the control tower and all the blinking lights in the distance. It all seemed to signify ‘somewhere else.’ I wanted to be wherever that ‘somewhere’ was.
I was a young girl who became a veteran day-tripper. Always climbing in the car with my parents to the nearest state park for a hike or family trips with the grandparents to Put-In-Bay, a small island village on Lake Erie. To Sugarcreek or or Millersburg, AKA “Amish Country,” for homemade crafts, cheese, and pumpkins. To southern Ohio to visit Fenton, an old glass factory in Martins Ferry. To the Warthers Museum of wood carving in Dover dedicated to the master carver, Ernest “Mooney” Warther. To the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton. Needless to say, not only did I develop a love for adventure but for the niche destination. I have recollections of visiting energy plants, recycling centers, apple orchards, the crypt of President James A. Garfield.
Eventually I travelled even further away.
Pittsburgh to ride the Duquesne Incline. Deep into the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia for family reunions. South Carolina for the thrills of the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach. The salty gulf coast and the alligator invested waters of Florida once my grandparents left Ohio for a Sunshine State retirement. And finally to Georgia, where at the age of twelve I moved with my parents and younger brother to make a home among the coiling kudzu and the monuments of the Confederate dead.
My adoration for the day trip only continued and grew from there. I wanted to learn more about my new strange home with its different dialect, vernacular, climate, and complex history but also I relished in the escape of travel in the face of a new school, unfamiliar kids, and puberty. It was perhaps the only time in my life that my desire to explore grew from my want to return to the recognizable, the familiar, the old. But maybe that’s always what travel is?
I’ve by no means done all I could ever want to do. I’m still doing it. But I have managed to visit 26 states, 8 countries, 2 principalities, and the Vatican. I’ve been off the beaten path and I’ve waited in line to take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building.
I’m only 30. I want to do it all. I will do it all.