NaBloPoMo #19: Starting Young

Prompt: Where would you want to retire if money wasn’t an issue?

When I was younger and still full of hope, I would dream about traveling the world. Most of my dream sites were Western, places like Ireland, the UK, Greece, and Rome, but I was curious about Egypt, India, and Japan – and any place that could boast stunning views, outrageous architecture, and good food. Honestly, I just wanted to travel, leave Texas and my family, and have some kind of adventure. I really didn’t care what or where.

Such aspirations were too much for my father, who has spent my entire life (i.e., as far as I can remember) calling me stuck up and telling me not to dream so big. Apparently, wanting to one day earn 50k a year and tour the Caves of Lascaux make you elitist. Who knew?

One of his favorite refrains when I got too uppity was to tell me to slow down, that I didn’t have to do everything at once, and that I could travel when I was older. This suggestion did and still does fill me with horror.

I don’t understand the point of waiting to travel until you’re retirement age. Yes, I’ll (I hope) be more financially secure and (perhaps) less vulnerable, but I won’t be as physically fit. My mind won’t be as open to new experiences. I’ll have more worries and responsibilities – significant others, jobs, dependents, deadlines. I’ll be even more hesitant to make a fool of myself, and my barely adequate language skills will likely be nonexistent. No, not every middle-aged or elderly person will have these problems, but I know me, I’ve always known me, and I know my limitations.

Asking someone to wait to pursue their dreams is just another tactic to get them to abandon them. Doing so tells the person that you don’t approve, that it’s not worth it, and that they shouldn’t attempt it. It gives them more excuses to chicken out. It kills their hope.

I did my best not to listen to my father. I went to college out of state and studied abroad in England, working 60 – 70 hours a week the previous summer so I could do a little traveling, see a little bit of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Later, I joined the Peace Corps and lived in Ukraine for over two years, traveling extensively around the country and to Hungary and Italy. It wasn’t enough. It’ll never be enough, and I think that’s something my dad is never going to understand. Even though I’d rather travel as I’m younger, I still want to as I age. I don’t think middle or old age are death sentences necessitating that you stay home and tend the hearth while the kids go out and play. But I think it’s better to get to revisit the places you went to in your youth and, unfettered by the blind excitement and terror of a first visit, you can enjoy yourself more. I want that. I want to return to familiar places, have friends to visit, and marvel every time I discover something new. But to do that, I had to start young.

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