I’ve known about you for most of my life. I’ve seen you at a distance through family stories and friends’ posts on Facebook. You looked glamorous but a bit out of my league. You seemed nice but way beyond reach. I remember driving home with my dad on a cold January night when he mentioned a trip to Europe. Me?! I remember the elation and disbelief that I could be strolling through Europe a little over a year later. It seemed too good to be true. I still had to apply, but wouldn’t it be expensive? Even my siblings hadn’t had this luxury at my age.
Even before Europe, I’d dabbled in conversations with you but just flirting, no long-term commitment. I’d experienced you on annual family vacations to places like Florida and Colorado. You’d given me only a corner of the world, but I always looked forward to these weeks when I could bury my toes into the sand or just gaze into the beauty of the mountains. You’d given me a taste of something beyond myself, something beautiful and awe-inspiring.
Life with you isn’t always smooth and glamorous, but you sure are worth it. Setting early alarms for 20-hour bus rides to Colorado and flights to Europe has me only running for the Keurig. But the moment I come to my senses and realize I’m leaving for adventure, my stomach churns with butterflies. Darling Travel, you never cease to get my heart rate up and imagine our exciting future.
Even after I’d stepped off the plane and gone through customs at Heathrow, I still couldn’t believe it was really you. Europe?! I was in EUROPE. The giddiness you give me is unlike anything else. I knew you’d shown me the world before I’d arrived in London, but it wasn’t long before I realized you had universes more to show me. You captivated me with the little things: foreign cars, buildings like I’d never seen with my own two eyes, charming accents, different fashion, even the mundane crosswalks. The hustle and bustle enchanted my young heart and still does to this day. You ease into my heart moment by moment. In the laughter. In the fatigue. In the awe. In the excitement. Please never stop.
I felt like a big shot now that I’d had you. I bragged about you with my luxurious photos and ample stories. You’d shown me the world. And you stole my heart; I knew those 10 days in Europe had changed the course of my life. That sounds like an overstatement, but I truly believe it. You made me look at the world differently and piqued my desire to explore, to engage in the unknown. And I knew I could never forget you.
Several summers later, I stepped on a plane to fly to Los Angeles alone. Fear sought to creep in, but the thought of you exhilarated my heart and dulled my anxieties. I knew adventures were just waiting to be opened like gifts on Christmas morning: aggressively. Not out of anger or a lack of tenderness but of uncontrollable elation and pursuit. After stopping at In-N-Out, I remember sitting in the back of the car going 90 mph on a highway and just staring out the window. It was the same country I’d lived in my whole life; I’d seen Los Angeles in the movies plenty of times. But there was something exotic and enticing about the city.
Many helpings of fresh pineapple and several beach trips later, I realized you’d completely turned me into a different person. I’d come into the trip exhausted and broken from the hardest year of my life. I needed healing, and I remember bawling in my mom’s lap several days before leaving for L.A. I didn’t know a soul, and I’d be there two entire weeks. My worn-down heart feared loneliness and panic attacks from not having a safe place to confide. But you had so much in store for me, more than I could’ve ever anticipated.
In Los Angeles, I met people who shared my hurts. They got it. They got me. And they were complete strangers, owing nothing to me out of obligation. You gave me time and distance to process. I wasn’t sure if I trusted you. Time away from family and friends when I desperately needed healing? Are you sure?! Oh, but how God used you in my mess! But stepping off the plane after those two weeks, I was different. I was confident, healed yet still in progress, renewed and rejuvenated. Heck, I wasn’t even ready to return home. You’d given me a taste of a landscape, people and experiences unlike anything I’d known. Home may be a safe place, but sometimes stepping away from our nest is the only thing that will truly grow and mend our brokenness.
These past few months haven’t allowed me to see you much, but I cherish the moments I have with you at home of just trying a new coffee shop or walking a block further than I normally do. But even now, I lose sleep thinking of you. In a few short months, I’m headed to Europe for three months. I would’ve never dreamt I’d be able to spend this much time with you, but my heart literally JUMPS for joy just thinking of all that is in store. I spend my time filling my Pinterest boards with adventures we may share together.
Thinking back over the past few years, I’ve realized I’ve rarely been at home on my birthday, which I absolutely love. Sometimes I’ve been in the Colorado mountains, on a bus in Kansas (actually one of my favorite birthdays), underneath the palm trees in California and this summer, in Europe. I remember back to middle school wishing I had “something.” I wished that I would be passionate, that I’d have a “thing” that I invested in, that defined me. I looked to my older siblings who seemed to already have defined their niches. But I looked at myself and wished just something would excite me, that would get my heart racing, that I could pour time into. And I’ve found you. You’ve changed my life for the better. Boys come and go, but my heart could and already has run marathons to expend the exhilaration you feed into my heart.
Darling travel, never stop romancing me with those cherished moments of seeing the waves crash into the rocks, of watching the city of Paris go about its evening as I watch intently from a boat on the Seine. Never stop pushing me to be my best and to see the world in a different light. Never stop encouraging me to understand where people are coming from and that my home culture is not like all nor superior to others. You’ve given me a thirst for adventure, and you can be sure that I’m coming back for more.