Traveling While Growing Up
When I was growing up, my family didn’t do a lot of traveling outside of Minnesota and the Midwest. But we were all over Minnesota. In the Twin Cities alone there’s endless things to do. We did the stereotypical Minnesotan things every summer, like going to the State Fair (Otherwise known as the Great Minnesota Get Together). Giant Paul Bunyan and Babe were not left out in Bemidji and neither was the start of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park. Northern Minnesota seemed to be the part of the state that we always liked better. It seemed like every summer we went up to Duluth and explored the attractions along the North Shore: Split Rock Lighthouse, Two Harbors, Grand Marais, Gooseberry Falls, Betty’s Pie Shop. (If you’re not from Minnesota the North Shore is what we call the area that borders Lake Superior).
We had family in Montana so we’d make the trip through the Dakotas on our way to Montana. None of us will forget driving through the Black Hills with my cousins. Where everyone except my brother got carsick from the roads that curve through the beautiful scenery. The Mount Rushmore Scenery made the car ride worth it. We didn’t neglect the other side of the Midwest either. Our experience of Wisconsin consisted of Wisconsin Dells and the scenery we saw on the way to Wisconsin Dells. There’s plenty to see besides waterparks there including the upside down White House (much more if not as historically accurate as the White House in D.C.)
Outside of the Midwest, my family hadn’t seen as much. There was a trip to Colorado that we went to with some family friends (moms went to a prayer conference while the days had fun with the kids). My favorite were the couple trips to Arizona where my grandpa used to spend the winters. Nothing is better to a girl who hates the cold than going to spend some quality time in some summer weather in the middle of February.
Travel-neglected we were not. Seeing Mount Rushmore and petting burros in Oatman, Arizona are two of my most distinct memories. But the problem with traveling with kids is trying to arrange everyone’s schedule. Not only are the work schedule a problem when picking dates, but there’s school breaks plus basketball and marching band schedules. We traveled quite a bit but traveling across the country or outside of our country wasn’t high priority.
Where My Interest in Travel Came From
The travel bug didn’t hit me until college. We traveled around growing about as much as the friends I had in middle school in high school. Travel around Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas (hardly anyone went to Iowa) or farther if you’re visiting family. Big trips to Europe was a dream that few people achieved.
It was in college that I realizes that a lot of people my age had traveled more than I did. Mostly because they went to schools were trips to Europe and Washington D.C. were more common. (One of my friends had gone to Washington D.C. on three different school trips before they graduated high school). Other friends had a chance to spend a few weeks in Spain or France while learning languages in high school. Add that to trips to visit family that lived all across the country and it made me want to travel. It wasn’t the fact that they had been to more places than me that started me thinking about travel, but rather the awareness of all the places that I COULD go to that made me itch to travel.
Then appeared study abroad options, spring break trips, and may seminars (a month long trip led by a professor for which you received college credit). There were so many options that it made your head spin. Then you looked at the price. A lot of students did manage to take one of those trips, but there were many who didn’t. Every year we went to the Expo where all the trips were displayed, taking a flyer from every place that interested us. There were May Seminars to Scotland that focused on writing or to Greece and Rome that focused on theater. Springs Break trips went everywhere from the Travel Writing class in London and Paris, to exploring the history of Germany. Taking a semester to study abroad gave you opportunities to fully immerse yourself in a language and culture, like Spain or focus on social justice issues in India. There were so many opportunities to explore. Many of us knew that we would never study abroad there (course credits transferring into our school was surprisingly hard) but looking at the options was always fun. And if nothing else it was another place to add to our bucket list.
When senior came, wanderlust faded into the background as I focused on all the stress of senior year with graduation fast approaching. But after graduation I had plenty of time to think about travel.
Post-graduation is both fun and horrible. It’s fun because you feel free and the world is full of possibilities. It’s horrible because job searching is never fun and combining that with have little to no experience in your career field can be anxiety-inducing to say the least.
You start a job that you may or may not like just to start somewhere. But the fun part is, once you have a job after college you get to decide where that money goes. Yes, you have bills, rent, and those pesky student loans. But once that’s paid for you can decide where your spending money goes. Like on a trip to Washington D.C. with a couple friends from college.
That’s what I did. I had saved the money that I’d gotten from relatives for graduation (and some money from my paychecks) to take that trip. And I’m so glad that I went to D.C. I loved everything about traveling around Washington D.C. The monuments were even more breathtaking than I imagined. Despite seeing pictures, I didn’t appreciate the size until I was there and the quiet feeling of reverence was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The Smithsonian museums were unlike anything I’d seen before. I love museums but the Smithsonians are a completely different caliber than I’ve experienced before. I could live in the National Gallery of Art and be perfectly happy. Even riding the metro was an exciting experience. As someone who lives in a city where trains aren’t very accessible being able to travel somewhere almost exclusively by trains was exhilarating. If I could take a bus or a train and have to walk a few blocks, I always took the train. And I missed it when I came back to Minneapolis where our train can take you from Minneapolis to St Paul or from Minneapolis to the Mall of America. Not the same as being able to take the Metro from our hotel to within a few miles of Mount Vernon.
But what I loved more than anything else was exploring a brand new city. The tourist attractions were great but there’s something about wandering around a place that is completely new that is intoxicating. Watching people go about their day. Absorbing the culture of the city. That’s the part of the trip that made me want to travel anywhere and everywhere. I am a big wanderer. When I have a bad day, finding a new path on a walk or wandering through a new park is something that is relaxing. You find more out about a town by doing that as long as you pay attention to where the good and bad parts of town are and don’t wander where you shouldn’t.
One the first things I did when I came how was to plan another trip, even though I wouldn’t be taking it anytime soon. But knowing that there is a plan to explore a brand new place in the not too distant future is very satisfying. Now whenever I’m having a really bad day, I plan a trip and feel so much better knowing that there’s a whole new place waiting to be explored.
Planning one trip or even a couple of trips wasn’t good enough for me. So I started listing out the places I wanted to see. Pinterest is a huge resource for anyone planning a trip and it’s where I got most of my ideas. I’ve realized, through pinterest and travel blogs, that I want to go everywhere. It may not happen but I’m pretty sure that I can get to most places. Spend your life living out your dreams and never let anyone tell you otherwise. That’s my plan for life and so far it’s working.
If you’re looking for the full list of places where I want to travel, you’ll have to go here. But if you’re looking for the places I have been, you’ll find them below. Be sure to check back for updates!
Posts on Where I’ve Been