As a child, my father was a diplomat with the United Nations, stationed in Satiago, Chile. That is where I grew up and lived until I moved to the United States at age 27. My father, who passed away exactly five months ago, gave us the gift of traveling the world.
Since I can remember, we would take vacations to different countries, which is not something that most of my friends did. Usually they would go to the same place every year, a family house on the beach or in a farm. I was kind of jealous of that, for some reason.
Now I see it in a completely different way. Traveling to different countries and experiencing different cultures, made me see things with a more open mind. As an adult, I can understand other people's perspective in many levels, or at least empathize with them. It also gave me a great sense of patriotism, I'm an American, since I was born here, but I have two sisters that are from two different countries. The third is like me, from New Jersey.
My Mom and Dad chose to live in the Garden State and my Dad used to commute into New York City to work at the Headquarters there. Winters were particularly hard and I remember many stories about trying to get home after snow storms.
I will start with New York City, since I brought it up. That city is very close to my heart since we traveled to it, from South America many times. In those days (not sure if that is the case now), the UN employees used to get a 'home leave' every two years, which meant that the organization would pay the employee and their family to go back to their home country.
My parents are both from Ecuador, but my Dad's home base was NYC, so we took many trips there, but they were all during winter, since Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere and our end of school year vacation was during the summer there.
September 11 hit me particularly hard, since I had been there many times before, I was at the observation deck in the Twin Towers, I had eaten in the Window of The World restaurant, I had gone up those elevators. It was surreal to see those buildings come down. Something I will never forget.
But I have fond memories of the city, regardless. Fantastic food, many outings to Broadway to see Cats, Fiddler on The Roof and other classics, the Met, FAO Schwarz, Central Park and on and on.
One of my favorite places to go for dinner is a little Spanish place called El Pote, not far from UN Headquarters, can't remember the street it's on, my Dad would, it was his favorite restaurant in NYC. I am determined to go back, the food is out of this world.
New York is just one of the many cities of the world that I have been fortunate enough to visit. Each trip has its own special place in my heart and its own sense of adventure, although we were not the adventurous typ of family, my parents were very much city people, hence we never went camping or hiking on our vacations, which I regret, I wish we would have done more of that sort of thing.
Aside from New York, I have been lucky enough to visit many other States in this great country, I still live here, in the Midwest now, but have been up and down the East Coast, living in Florida for a number of years. That's where I got married and had my two daughters.
I think traveling also gave me a broader knowledge of other things, such as literature and music. I don't claim to be a connoisseur on either, but I appreciate good books and many different genres are of interest to me, from political thrillers, to historical fiction and romance. I think the traveling gave me the love of the history and geography part. I can enjoy a good book about past European monarchs or leaders. My literary taste is quite varied, I owe that to my travels.
Both my parents have always loved classical music, and I grew up listening to all the composers. I can recognize some of the pieces and its author, which always makes me happy to be able to do. I am now trying to get my own children to appreciate it. It's not something that one does willingly at certain ages, especially the teenage years, and I have one of those...
As a child, I clearly remember certain things that annoyed me, one of them was my Dad trying to round us all up and get us to sit and listen to him reading poetry! What a notion at that age. It was the longest hour, or however long he kept us, for me and I think the rest of my sisters. Now, looking back, it definitely influenced my literay taste, although I readily admit, poetry is not my favorite genre!
But going back to my travels, I remember a particular trip, the first time we went to Europe, specifically Paris. I had read many period novels, one of my favorites is The Three Musketeers, but I also read a similar story that takes place immediately before Dumas' novel and places you in the city itself. When we visited, we looked for all the places that the novel mentioned and it was so interesting to see that many of them were still there, in our time.
It was fascinating to walk the streets of old Paris, go to the Louvre, Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and all the countless other monuments and places that city has to offer and visit the sites that have been there for centuries and witnessed countless historical events, some good and many not so good.
In sum, traveling has influenced my life in many ways, but the most meaningful for me was that I connect it with my father and I thank him for giving me a gift that will forever stay with me and I can pass along to my own kids.