"You have a European soul... you know that?" The statement that would shift my entire perspective of life as I knew it was a passing notion said by my favorite person on this planet, my Grammy.
It’s hard for me to explain my love and devotion to exploring the world without thinking of my favorite armchair adventurer, my grandmother. You see, my Grammy was cultured by novels and anthologies, by practicing world religions and delving deep into cultural exchanges through the pages of thick, worn books. She’s never adventured further than Florida, but the woman could spin into frenzy about Lao Zu, the navigation of the Vikings and everything between. Her love for learning, and, more importantly, her love for culture and history has completely and utterly propelled my desire to see and savor the wild, wide world.
My favorite armchair adventurer may not have crossed an ocean, but I sure think the reason that I’ve crossed so many is because of her excitement for this planet we are on.
In elementary school, Wednesdays were my favorite weekday. My Pop-Pop would pick me up after school, secretly let me switch the gears of his old, champagne colored Toyota Camry up the long, tall hill that lead to their split-level house. And there, on the screened in back-porch, would be my Gram, always reading. The image of my grandmother I will always have etched in my mind is that one. The breeze sifting through the mesh screens, the bells hung on the wooden beams above swaying, and her, languidly, happily in her own world. In my early youth, we spent so many days together making, reading, learning, and dreaming.
You see, my grandmother would fill my imagination with so many stories and wonderings, that I would sneak downstairs at night exclaiming, “my mind won’t shut up!” and she would laugh and laugh, and back upstairs we would go to make up stories together from where my mind would wander.
In my teens, my grandmother and I would lye on the mauve colored carpeted floor of her living room, sifting through magazines and we’d talk of so many things… art, music (her love for the “dark side” of music was particularly relevant to me at the time), movies, books. And that was where she looked me in the eye and said, “you have a European soul... you know that?” with such certainty and eagerness.
With that sentiment, the whole world seemed to open up in front of me. Yes, I had heard about London and Paris and Rome, but was it possible that maybe I belonged in those different places? Was the reason I felt so different because maybe I had the mindset of someone from far away? Were the lives and people really that much different from my own? What was life even like in Europe? A thousand questions spewed into my mind. And with those questions came a devotion to dreaming of far off places.
So began my lifelong love of wanderlust. Unable to study abroad during college, I pinched my pennies working four part time jobs after graduating, knowing that my ultimate goal was to fly to Europe, explore the cities I longed to see and find a piece of myself out there in the wide, beautiful world.
My experiences traveling since my first journey abroad have been wildly varied, but all so fulfilling. From the white sands of Thailand’s island shores, to the gloomy, overcast Highlands of Scotland, to the gritty cityscape of Shanghai, to the spicy dishes from Korea, to the untamed beauty of Iceland, my boyfriend Luke and I have made a habit of summering abroad for the entirety of our relationship. We’ve gotten incredibly lost in the mountainsides of the Japanese Alps, we’ve tasted the insane deliciousness of Bologna, we’ve stayed out far past our bedtime with locals of Taipei and every single experience we’ve had together has instilled such an appreciation and wonder for this little blue planet we’re situated on.
But it's always upon my return from these wild explorations abroad that I instantaneously want to run to that screened in back porch, where I know I can find my Grammy languidly waiting to hear all about the adventures I've had. It's always upon my return that I want to thank her, for her instilling her relentless inquisitiveness, her appreciation for new, her wild imagination. I want to thank her for making me feel like a child of the world. I want to thank her for putting a fire in my feet to go see, go do, go make good.
So, Grammy... if you're reading this (which I'm sure my mother will insist on showing you), you already know what I am going to say. Your kindred spirit sets out into the world because of the curiosity you have instilled upon me. I cannot thank you enough for that.