“You’re crazy,” one of my students told me today. “I call you my crazy teacher.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I can’t believe you’re going to ride that far. That’s just crazy. That’s something that people talk about doing – but they never actually do it.”
I guess it is true that a lot of people talk about taking an extended journey like ours, but not all that many actually walk the talk. I really wish more people would do it – I wish more people would head out to see the world with children in tow. There’s just so much to learn out there.
I think about my childhood – and all I learned in school. Yes, I saw pictures of tribal people from all over the world. Yes, I watched National Geographic movies about cultures around the world. Yes, I did tons of research and wrote reports. I knew about the world – or so I thought.
I think I’m one of the lucky ones – my parents took me to Mexico when I was sixteen. That journey changed my life – quite literally. I remember walking through the Mexican streets in wide-eyed wonder – it was so… different. It had never dawned on me that anyone lived differently that I did in Boise, Idaho.
I watched a flame thrower as he took a big swig of kerosene, then blew it out while lighting it on fire. I also watched as he gagged as he took that swig. “Oh my lord,” I remember thinking. “This man does this day after day after day. He stands on a street corner, fills his mouth with kerosene, and spits it out. And he gags. Again and again and again.”
I’m quite certain that flame thrower had no idea what kind of impact he had on my life. I’m sure he spent many years gagging on kerosene before dying an early death.
And me? I returned home to my safe and secure little house in Idaho – where everyone lived the same as me. As sixteen-year-olds tend to do, I turned on the TV as soon as we entered our house and plopped myself down to watch about all that stuff that goes on the world. A few minutes later a Peace Corps commercial came on, and I made a decision then and there that I would enter the Peace Corps as soon as I as able. And I did – eight years later.
The rest, as they say, is history. I spent two years in Honduras in the Peace Corps, then came back to the US to teach on the Navajo reservation for a while. After spending a year biking the Indian subcontinent, I moved to Albuquerque for two years – and hated it. I convinced John to move overseas with me and we spent time in Egypt, Ethiopia, Taiwan, and Malaysia before moving back to the US twelve years later.
I think about all the years I’ve spent wandering the globe and marvel at the fact that it all started with a family journey to Mexico. I talked with Mom a few years ago, and told her about how that trip to Mexico changed me – she had no idea. When my parents made the decision to take us to Mexico, I’m sure they never considered it would be such a life-changing event.
I guess that’s why I want other families to travel – I want all kids to have the magnificant experiences I’ve had. And it all starts with a family vacation.