Most people who know me, know I spend a bit of time on the road. I’ve worked and traveled around the world, often to places that most people never heard of or never thought to visit.
I can identify precisely when I caught the travel bug: I was 20 and, while getting my bachelors degree at Drexel University in international area studies, worked abroad for a semester teaching English at a private elementary school in China. I instantly connected with people with whom I had little in common, but whose stories I thought were interesting and amazing. Deeply influenced by one of my professors, a sociologist with leftist leanings, I connected with people and their stories of hardships through work and their lived experiences under a communist regime.
From there, I didn’t stop traveling. I worked in the non-profit sector, and worked in East, West, and Southern Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Central America. I traveled to other parts of Latin America and Tibet in my late 20’s and early 30’s for non-work excursions. I wanted to know all there was to know about the world and what stories and meaning held “out there.”
Through all this, my parents often frowned upon my wandering. Though they know my work and living abroad has deeply impacted me and made me a better person, I make them worry, as they like to point out.
And then… I had a revelation the other day.
My family and I immigrated to the United States in 1985 when I was 8 years old. This past November, my mother became eligible for Medicare – which makes her 65 years old. In 1985 then, at the age of 34, my mother, along with my father who was 32, immigrated to the US with their 3 young children of 9, 8, and 7 years.
It dawned on me then, that in their early 30’s my parents encountered their “what if” moment – their Jesus Year, if you will (see post, “Jesus Year, deconstructed.”) It was the “what if” that propelled my parents to leave their jobs and home, and head to the West for opportunities.
And yes, I can share with you our immigrant story… But today, I just wanted to remind myself, and hope you will too, to always allow our sense of wonder to fill us. As my dear friend Ken once told me, “sometimes, dreams do come true.”
So perhaps, my travel bug was caught not when I was 20, but when I was just a child, daydreaming about the “what if” in life and the things to see “out there,” just as my mother and father did. If we are truly more like our parents then we ever care to admit: then for this one thing they’ve given me – this sense of wonder – I thank them.
– Angel, writing from Niamey, Niger, March 2017