I’ve recently been wondering as to whether people who love to travel are born with the “travelling gene” or if instead, they acquire a taste for it. In a way it might be similar to how some develop a taste for wine or classical music. You might recall how much you enjoyed your first sip of Zinfandel and have now expanded to explore other varietals. Perhaps you started with Beethoven’s classic “Ode to Joy” and have developed an appreciation for Wagner’s darker moods. Travel is similar and that desire to see more of the world is likely to grow from your first trip to the grand theme parks in Orlando, Florida. In my early travel career I visited Orlando on an annual basis. But my journey towards travel goes farther back. I believe that my love of travel began in elementary school. Love might actually be a word too strong for that tender age, but it was definitely a crush. At 7 or 8 years of age I was the star of a school play that featured the lead character (me) as someone who travelled the world. According to my mother I “wore a navy blue dress with beautiful small white striping all over”. I carried a small suitcase as I met other children in other nations as portrayed by fellow students in regional costumes. At one point in the performance I was on stage solo, likely for the finale. I sang Disney’s classic “It’s a small World after all!” to tons of applause (also according to my proud mother). The experience allowed me the simulation and thrill of travel without leaving the Bronx. It was a good indicator of what my future would hold. Living in the city is likely where I also learned tolerance and appreciation for other cultures and different foods. My first journeys started with my family travelling from New York City to Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where the biggest attraction was and still is the Zane Grey House. Zane Grey was a dentist but better known as a prolific writer specializing in the Western genre. His former home is set along the Delaware River and functioned as a private bed and breakfast before the National Park Service acquired it. It currently operates as a museum. However, that wasn’t what brought us up to the idyllic little town. My Grandfather travelled from Manhattan to buy his meat from the Lackawaxen butcher, because, in his words, it was better. He also stopped to fill multiple empty bottles with the fresh water that flowed from a spring on the Hawk’s Nest highway that runs along the Delaware River. The long car ride from the city was boring but what I hated most was crossing a single lane rickety wooden bridge. It caused such panic that my grandfather insisted I put my head down in my lap as if not seeing the actual bridge would assuage my fears. In later years I learned the bridge that I feared was designed and built by John Roebling. Mr. Roebling is considered the “father of the modern suspension bridge” and is also the designer of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. I was leery of both the sturdiness of the structure and potential oncoming traffic as the bridge was built with a single lane and drivers waited to take their turn crossing. Given Mr. Roebling’s experience and the patience of the locals, both were needless worries.
Long before Mickey Mouse set down roots in Orlando, Florida, Disneyland in Orange County California was the penultimate family trip and travel wish for every child. I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend a regional school competition for students excelling in the field of retailing. The winner would progress to the next level of competition in Anaheim California. I was successful in the visual display category, what you might call “window dressing” and in a prescient peek into the future, won with a travel themed display. It was then that I visited my first travel agency to request travel brochures for my entry project. I also visited a luggage store where the Manager was kind enough to lend me a few suitcases to promote my theme. To my surprise, I won first place elevating me to the next level of competition and was soon singing “California here I come” courtesy of DECA, Distributive Education Clubs of America. According to their website DECA “is a student-centered organization whose program of leadership and personal development is designed specifically for students enrolled in marketing education classes.” It wasn’t my first plane ride but it was the longest. Our group arrived from all 50 states and we were given the special treat of a reserved private visit to Disneyland. The only way to top that would have been to win first place and move on to the international competition. But a second win for me was not in the cards. The park and freedom from parental guidance were both a distraction from the task at hand and I returned home without so much as an honorable mention. Did I lose? Yes, at that competition. However, I came home a winner having discovered the joy of travel.