When I was 10 years old, my mother and I were inside of a hotel in Hawaii before we went on a cruise through the islands. Outside, I couldn't help but notice a huge commotion. The sounds of chants and cheers of a crowd looked and sounded like a parade to my young eyes. Upon closer examination, I found out it was a march in support of Hawaii's independence.
I didn't understand it fully at first. My few interactions with the word independence were essentially limited to Independence Day and American independence. Thus I was able to make crude comparisons between American independence and Hawaiian independence. It worked for the colonists against the British, so why shouldn't the Hawaiians get it?
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I never became a strident supporter of Hawaiian independence. However, witnessing that demonstration started a lifelong passion for understanding different peoples, their cultures and their struggles.
If you were take a quick look at my bookshelf, you would see it is almost completely full of historical and political nonfiction books. It's safe to say my experience in Hawaii that day helped to start an itch I have yet to scratch.
I was lucky enough to go on such a trip thanks to my mother's profession as a travel writer -- for none other than the Daily Herald.
This allowed me to go to a number of different states and countries, an opportunity that many of my friends at the time didn't experience.
This also meant they didn't experience things like the fun of jet lag, which I encountered on the trip to Hawaii. My mother encouraged me to try to fight the urge to sleep, which would have prevented some of the jet lag. Of course, I ignored her advice only to find myself awake all hours of the night for several nights of that trip. You live and you learn.
On another trip, this time to England, my cousin came with us. It was great to have someone near my age along for the ride, as opposed to just my mother, who necessarily played both my travel companion and authority figure.
In London, my mother was interacting with a hotel clerk at a counter. My cousin and I were standing behind her and, all of a sudden, a teenage boy comes up to us. By the time I realized that he was going through my cousin's purse, I was quickly elbowed out of the way.
My aloofness and tendency to daydream prevented me from being an effective crime stopper that day. As a youth growing up in the suburbs, this was a new experience to me. Strange that I had to travel so far to learn about something that many people experience on a daily basis, but such was my upbringing.
These trips and others showed me from a young age that the world could be far more tumultuous and dangerous than I had imagined. Travel was a reality check in many ways, for which I am thankful.
On the other side of the coin, I don't want to imply that traveling is inherently unsafe or that some of the risks aren't worth it. I was also able to see things and hear about things that were amazing and awe-inspiring.
A great example of this would be our road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where we made several stops along the coast following the legendary Route 1. One such stop was at the home of some of my mother's friends, an older couple who were incredibly gracious and welcoming hosts.
While the scenery has stuck with me, their lifestyle also stuck with me. The neighbors were there, but they weren't over the fence; they were over the hill and through the woods. As I grew up experiencing life mostly in the suburbs or the city, the peacefulness of that time and place showed me a world devoid of row houses and fast food locations.
Also during our stay on the coast near Monterey, our hosts told us that several of their closest neighbors were scientists of varying sorts, several of whom also crafted their own musical instruments. My head spun thinking about this secret coastal outpost of rock star mathematicians. I certainly hadn't heard of anything like that back home.
Beyond going to the many museums, tours and places of historical significance relevant to my mother's work as a travel writer, the act of traveling offered me a gateway to other ways of life and lessons that I will never forget.
Helpful traveling tips
• Be prepared for questions regarding a country or state's history/culture, especially "why do they do things that way?" style questions.
• Be ready to translate for your kids. Even the various dialects of English sound amazingly different (ask a Scot how they pronounce Edinburgh).
• Do what you can to prevent jet lag. I know I'm laying it on thick, but having to be awake all night/tired during the day is no way to spend a vacation.
• Don't always expect the most exciting excursion to be the most memorable or important. Sometimes a quiet trip away from everything can be just as rewarding.
• Be wary of your surroundings, and don't carry valuables with you if you don't need to. Encourage your kids to be attentive of themselves and those around them.
• Most of all, just travel and see the world! The benefits far outweigh the risks, and in some ways seeing the world can help people appreciate their home that much more.