I took my first plane ride when I was 12, when my family went from Minneapolis to Myrtle Beach, S.C, for a few weeks on the beach. We got plastic wings to pin to our shirts and extra Biscoff cookies and a view of the ground as we’d never seen it. I remember passengers smiling as the four of us stared out the window and oohed and aahed and wondered why our ears hurt so much.
I was an incurious kid from Minnesota who didn’t know much about the world. Family vacations were always road trips to Dayton, Ohio, 12 hours through some of the least beautiful scenery the Midwest has to offer. I knew just two time zones. I couldn’t conceive of California, much less France or China or all those places where people talked funny and ate things that weren’t casseroles.
I had no idea what I was missing.
In the years since, I’ve been fortunate enough to dig my toes into the white sands of Puerto Rico beaches, to explore Mayan ruins, to eat cheese near the Eiffel Tower and tuck into a curious Mexican hot-pot in an upstairs room of a Shanghai bar. I’ve taken an SUV across Costa Rica and walked the streets of Barcelona and Amsterdam’s red light district. I’ve experienced the hushed grayness of Nantucket, gobbled down buttery lobster in Maine, drank my way through Sonoma, skinny-dipped in Hawaii, walked the vast prairie lands of Kansas and slurped hot chocolate at a dozen Seattle cafes.
What I didn’t know at 12 is just how big and beautiful and bizarre the world is. What I know at 32 is that I’ve only seen a fraction of it.