Some little girls dream of the perfect wedding, others dream of finding the perfect partner. I dreamed of traveling to third-world countries and saving the world from itself, one laugh at a time. Before the Internet, I would pour over picture books of children traveling to different countries. When my mother purchased a set of encyclopedias from a door-to-door salesman, I spent hours on the floor of our den looking up random places and reading about them.
Although I was not a fan of reading at the time, I loved studying our globe. It sat on top of a wooden speaker from the 1970s that also served as one of two end tables. When plugged in, it would emit a soft golden glow. Spinning the globe, my fingers caressed the delicate paper. Once it stopped, I lifted my fingertips and repeated the names of the places before running to the den to look them up. Mesmerized, I would read for hours about places such as Tanzania, which would lead me to the Serengeti and then blue wildebeests.
I increased my vocabulary and geographical knowledge and knew one-third of the countries’ capitals by the age of eight. Why? Because I one day hoped to visit these places.
Having watched movies of westerners working hand in hand with locals in some hot and sweaty country, I knew I wanted to do that, but I was not sure how. I had no interest in going to medical school or becoming a government official. I had however, considered teaching, but what country would need teachers when they had their own?
While my classmates dreamed of going to Disney World to meet ‘The Mouse’, I longed to visit Morocco and meander through the souqs. I was only seven however and had to settle for Orlando.
Being a child, I greatly enjoyed all the sights and rides of Disney World, especially, It’s a Small World, and Peter Pan. I have always been drawn to adventure and foreign places. When we visited Epcot however, everything changed. I had an intense feeling that I needed to visit those far off places. With each new “country” we visited, the longing increased until I felt like crying. I will never forget that moment. I knew then that I would travel the world.
As I grew older, I began looking at ways to travel overseas. My family however, looked for ways to keep me on U.S. soil. While one could argue that my father was a seasoned traveler, having been to over eighty-five countries before I graduated from high school, he had done it to support his family. What was my reason? Barely out of college, and with little money, I gave in to family pressure and stayed in the U.S.
I got a job and began making money. I even dated and fell in love with a man who loved all things sports and to be the best American he could be. In the end however, I wanted to be married and travel and he just wanted to be married. He moved on to greener pastures and I scraped together money for a plane ticket and then filed for my passport, in that order.
When I told my father of my plans to move to South Korea for a year, he flat out told me that no daughter of his was leaving the country. I was twenty-seven at the time and had not planned on that reaction but felt like I was finally doing something right with my life. My mother on the other hand, took the news remarkably well. It was as if their personalities had flip-flopped.
In the days leading up to my departure, my father and I talked very little. On the day I left for Asia, my mother and ex-boyfriend sent me off, my dad choosing to stay home. It was too hard for him to see me go. My one regret – that he had not opened up to me more, but I know now that is not his way.
Although I am of the mind that it is important to respect our parents, it is also important to follow our dreams and if those dreams lead us away from our families, then that is the path we must follow. I have given up a lot to follow mine, but I would not change anything, except perhaps, for having traveled abroad sooner, but c’est la vie.
Any grammar and mechanical issues are the responsibility of the author, and even though she’s an English teacher and does proofread, there may be some errors.