Oh, the places you’ll go: 36 years later to the future


On Thursday evening my family and I board a plane and travel to Europe.

During our time we will visit London, Portsmouth, Paris and Normandy.

I will also revisit my life from over 36 years ago when I took my first plane ride in my life with my brother, Butch, and traveled to Europe.

My son, Owen, is nearly the same age as I was when I travelled to Europe.

So much has changed since then.

Back then there was no Owen.  There wasn’t a Maisie.

For much of the European continent there was no freedom or liberty or safety and security.

It was a world that still trembled under the weight of the Cold War.

A Germany still divided.  Eastern Europe under the boot heel of Soviet Russia.

I have travelled near and far many, many times since those days of hiking around Europe with my oldest brother.  I look at the pictures of our trip – I re-read my journal of that trip – and smiles return to my face about special times we had there, together.

I shake my head at the weirdness that evolved when we connected with our father in German – and spent a chaotic time on a ferry to Ireland and then frantic hours scurrying through the backgrounds of the country – before my brother and I went our separate way from our father in Dublin.

Function and dysfunction are the hallmarks of my life.

You can’t even escape that in Europe!

Most of all, though, I am reflecting on the trip ahead of me and not the one behind me.

I believe that Americans don’t travel enough to places beyond our own country to learn about people in their country.

I think there is a value to travelling in America.  I believe it is important that we know ourselves well as a nation.  That means we need to know one another.  There are over 300 million of us in this nation and we owe it to ourselves to get to know each other.

But, there are nearly 8 billion people on the planet.

We are all neighbors near and far.

We owe it to ourselves to get to know each other.

I spent this past weekend at my cabin with my son and his friend, Anthony.  I was honored to spend a few hours with them talking about their views of the world.  Their hopes and aspirations.  Their ideas about how to make the world – and our country – a better place.

I hope to continue some of those conversations with Owen, and Maisie, on our trip to Europe.

Perhaps with the background and setting of nations and people they have never known or seen before we will learn something more about what it means to be Americans – and what it means to be a citizen of the world.

To be sure I hope we also have some good food.  See some great sights.  And that they get up close and personal to things they have only seen in pictures in books or on the internet.

It is, after all, meant to be a vacation and not simply an extension of high school.

Frankly, my kids would poke me in the nose if that is all it was. And, I would deserve it.

In a lot of the pictures I have in my photo album I see places I vaguely remember.  Many of them are not landmarks in any history book.  Some of them likely no longer exist.  Some of the people in those photos are distant memories in the lives of their friends and family.

I also see two young men – myself and my brother, Butch.

Besides having more hair, less girth and a camera that took pictures with film, I see two young men getting ready for the rest of their life.

On this trip to Europe it is my hope that it sparks a passion for my kids to travel once they leave the confines of their parent’s home.

I hope they will explore everything in their youth.  Find places near and far that are amazing with people who are different from them on the outside, but surprisingly similar on the inside.

For them I want a world of possibility and wonder to be opened to them because they took the risk of going places that weren’t on the path well-travelled.

I want them to get outside their comfort zone.  To be uncomfortable.  To eat food that looks like a pet to them but is simply sustenance to someone else in another part of the world.

The population of the world has nearly doubled since I first walked Europe.

It took just a bit over 36 years to have that happen.

Thirty-six years from now I wonder what the world will look like for Owen and Maisie.  Where will they be?  What will they have accomplished and done with their lives?

Whatever it is, and wherever they are, I know I will be proud of who they are and what they have done.

No matter where in the world they go.

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