Posts Tagged ‘Honolulu’

I caught the travel bug when I was a kid. Not during family vacations, those were always filled with tension and fighting and I could never wait to get home. The first time I realized how beautiful travel could be was during my 7th grade trip to Washington D.C. As part of the National Junior Honor Society, we were given small freedoms and allowed to reasonably explore things on our own. The next year, it was Disney World and my first trip to Florida and my first time on an airplane. I was hooked.

When I was sixteen, I earned a place on the Michigan Lions All-State Band’s trip to the international conference in Brisbane, Australia. I convinced my mother to let me go and spent months fundraising. Enduring the world’s longest plane ride, we visited not only Brisbane, but also Sydney, and spent a lovely three days in Hawaii, all the while performing in parades and concerts over a two-and-a-half week period. Even after dealing with a vicious stomach bug shortly after arrival, staying in a dorm with mice and giant cockroaches, a haunted hotel room in the red-light district section of Sydney (complete with gunshots in the walls), and getting lost in the not-so-great section of Honolulu, I was in love with travel and learning about the world outside my own country. This is also when I learned that I don’t like Vegemite, but that’s an different story.

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In the years since, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, and Italy. (My layovers in New Zealand and Amsterdam technically do not count, but they did stamp my passport, so there’s that.) I don’t count Canada because it is literally (and I’m using that correctly) about twenty minutes away and I’ve been there frequently throughout my life, especially after I turned nineteen, which is the legal drinking age there. Don’t judge.

All of these places taught me lovely, wonderful things, not only about the places and people, but also about myself. I learned how to make myself understood in another language, not perfectly, not even remotely close, but enough to order at restaurants, find the restroom, and ask for towels at the hotel. I learned that I am perfectly capable of navigating through unfamiliar places and can sort out the London Tube map on my own. I’ve made amazing, life-long friends in other places, even though we keep in touch only online. (Sabrina, I SWEAR I will get back to Italy, no worries!)

One of the most important things I’ve learned, though, is the importance of other perspectives. The American viewpoint is not the only one, people see things differently in other places. There are different norms, different customs. Travel has made me much less arrogant and more tolerant of others, more open to listening and understanding, even if I don’t agree. Granted, the places I’ve visited aren’t as far removed from me as a remote village in Kenya might be, (another place I’d like to visit), but they’re definitely not the same as where I’m from. Different cultures, different histories, different mindsets. I find it all fascinating, learning that will never end.


The point of all of this is to motivate. Don’t have a passport? Get one! Plan, save, do whatever you can to enable to you to get out and see the world, not just your own backyard. While there are many universal truths, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes will open your own. My own list keeps getting longer, to the point of I’m considering becoming a flight attendant when I’m done teaching just so I can travel the world over. Of course, if my Mega Millions ticket ever hits, I’ll be able to do it a lot sooner.

Even with all of its problems, our world is a beautiful place. Go see it.

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In a few days, Oldest Child is leaving for Europe. He’ll be gone for nine days in France and Spain, accompanied by 30 other students, many of them his good friends, and five teachers. He’s excited, of course, and so am I. It’s kind of surprising how many people I’ve mentioned it to on the last year who have reacted differently, that they wouldn’t let their child go unless they were with them, or that they wouldn’t let them go at all. I disagree, wholeheartedly.

When I was younger than Oldest Child, I went halfway around the world to Australia and Hawaii with my best friend, Jenny. We both auditioned for and were accepted into the Michigan Lions All-State Band, which was sponsored by the Lions Club, an international service organization. The band went wherever the conference was held each year. Sometimes, it was in places closer to home, such as Colorado, but that year it was in Brisbane, Australia. We had to play several concerts in Brisbane, Sydney, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, to represent the organization.

It was an amazing experience. After a 24- hour plane ride, not including layovers in Chicago, San Diego, Auckland, and Sydney, we finally got to Brisbane. I won’t go into great detail, but Australia was awesome. We pet kangaroos, held koalas, and smushed giant cockroaches on our walls with extra bricks in the school dormitory where we were staying. After five days in Brisbane, we moved on to a haunted hotel room in Sydney. The shower turned on and off by itself and there was a bullet hole in one of our walls. Ladies of the night frequented the sidewalk outside the hotel (prostitution is legal there) and we were not allowed to go outside by ourselves. Downtown Sydney was beautiful, though. We were free to wander for a few hours at a time and learned all sorts of wonderful cultural differences in between performances. Apparently, it’s normal to put beets on hamburgers there.

The rules were very strict. To break a rule meant a one-way ticket back home. We were a pretty well-behaved bunch of high school kids and there weren’t any mishaps. Jenny and I had a small, accidental snafu, but it all ended up well and it’s something to laugh about today. Perhaps I should explain…

To get around Oahu, we used the bus system. One night, we wanted to go to the Hard Rock Café. The Hard Rock Café, no matter where it was, was a pretty cool thing back then and we had already gotten shirts from the one in Sydney. The hotel told us to take the No. 2 bus there and back. We got there just fine, enjoyed our outrageously expensive hamburgers, and then jumped on the next No. 2 bus to get back to our hotel. Well, it didn’t quite work that way. We soon found out that there is a red-light district in Honolulu and since we were at the end of the bus line, the driver made us get off the bus right in the middle of it. To make matters worse, I was wearing an oh-so-cool T-shirt that proclaimed, “I got lei-d in Hawaii”. When we were being kicked off the bus, I promptly burst into tears while Jenny laughed hysterically. I was certain we were going to be given a one-way ticket home and that my mother would never let me out of the house unsupervised ever again, but Jen saw the funny side of it.

To make a long story short, we could actually see our hotel from where we were and figured that we could probably get there in the two hours we had left before curfew. We started walking, fast, and it wasn’t long before we came upon another bus stop with a bus arriving. It took us very close to our hotel and we were back in our hotel room almost two hours before curfew. Not wanting to risk fat again, we stayed in the rest of the night and were quite content to do so.

Anyway, even with our small adventure, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I met new friends, learned about other cultures (Hawaii is awesome), and got the itch to travel to other places. It’s everything I hope will happen to Oldest Child and his friends in the next couple of weeks. He’s always wanted to go somewhere far away. like this, but hasn’t had the chance yet. In response to the concerned parents, yes, bad things sometimes happen. One only needs to watch the news to know that, but bad things can happen at home, too. I would rather travel and see the world when I can than stay at home hiding under a blanket of ignorance. See the world, learn about people other than Americans, get some culture.

I’m going to Italy in June, my first trip to a place where English is not the dominant language, and I’m excited, not only for me, but for Oldest Child. I know he may have his own snafu, but it will be one that he will remember forever.

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