The Unexpected Expected Side Effect of Travel

In the grand scheme of travel writers and bloggers I haven’t really been any place extraordinary. When I read blog posts devoted to traveling Antarctica, Thailand, Peru, and Italy – all places I’ve never been – it would seem I have little to offer my fellow travelers in the way of adventure. Some days, it seems that’s reinforced by the superior attitudes that can be found in the travel blogging community. There’s an expectation for great stories when there is a photograph from Kho Phi Phi, or someone talks about living in Egypt and we laugh when a post on cannabis in Amsterdam is passed around! Those with the greatest list of countries visited, get greater notoriety.

If this is the currency … my time is finally coming. My plane ticket to Paris is on the pinboard above my computer and a countdown clock is on my iPhone. True world travel begins in earnest for me in 2011 with additional plans in the works to visit Spain, Argentina, Australia, Scotland, Ireland and Vancouver – to start!

While all those plans are grand and I’m sure may help me “catch up” to my other world traveling adventurists, when it comes down to it for me … the places are not the point. A check list of countries visited isn’t what fuels my love of travel. I’m going to be bold and say: it never will be.

PEOPLE … fuel my love of travel. They always have and they always will play a big part in my motivation to continue traveling.

For instance, I’m going to Paris because my mother and godmother instilled in me a love of France from my earliest memory. I want to go to Australia to meet amazing photographers: Steve Elmer and Julian Beattie and, if I am lucky – work with them. I want to visit Argentina, so I can celebrate the amazing love story & wedding of my dear friend Andi Perullo. I want to visit Spain because it is a part of my heritage. I want to visit Scotland and Ireland, because Jonathan Epstein has caused me to reexamine an area of the globe I’d thought I was no longer interested in. I want to visit Vancouver because it’s where my fellow travelers are gathering for Tbex11 and there are so many of them I just cannot wait to meet in person!! Of course, while I’m in these places I do plan to dive in and get to know their wonders – you can bet I want to tango when I’m in Argentina! Any world traveling men want to be my date?

People bring significance to the travel experiences I’ve already had in my life. I wrote a post addressing this on Monica Wong’s site earlier this year, albeit with a slightly different angle on how people have shaped how and where I’ve traveled. As 2011 kicks off, I’m remembering even more of the trips I’ve made and the people I was with when some of the best moments of my life were unfolding. Now, I look back on the unexpected memories – as some of my best ever.

When I traveled last summer to Arkansas and Tennessee, a portion of my trip was devoted to a visit with my old friends from college. Liz is an author with a book deal and a firstborn on the way. Matt is a man on the brink of having to give up his man-cave for his baby daughter’s inevitable takeover of the house. A visit was overdue! (Thanks Matt for taking the above photograph!)

So I drove my rental car through the plains of East Arkansas from Graceland, along the way thinking back to my college era in Little Rock. I thought of Matt proposing to Liz while we were still students, on top of The Peabody back in Memphis where I had just stayed overnight. We had gone as a group to Beale Street and joined them for dinner after Liz said yes! Every mile I gained brought me closer to my friends, and lifted my post-divorce downtrodden spirits. I didn’t have a checklist of things I wanted to do in Arkansas. However, we did end up going to some fabulous places. Little Rock has exciting culinary offerings I was completely unaware of and is definitely a danger when it comes to flea markets to-die-for. Yet it was a night staying in, that really caught me off guard. Matt cooked dinner and once we had licked our plates clean, we each enjoyed our own personal pints of ice cream while curled up on the man-cave couch watching a movie. For so many reasons, it is an evening that will go down in history as one of my favorite nights in ever. It wasn’t a boat ride on the canals in Venice or a hike to Machu Picchu. Yet that night ranks higher for me than the moment I first walked the Brooklyn Bridge because I shared it with two of my favorite people in the world. In Little Rock, Arkansas. Go figure!

I could tell you a dozen more stories like that. Some have more exotic locations to boast than others. Indeed, my unexpected love affair with Mexico was ignited only because of a person I wanted to travel with – no matter the destination! Certainly, Mexico can be (and was) a romantic place. I expected that I would just like Mexico and enjoy my time with my travel companion. Well, I fell in love with Mexico and made some memories I’ll cherish forever because of the person I traveled with. My expectations were met, but also exceeded, and I never saw it coming!

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I never plan on hating any part of traveling, I’m too addicted to every part of being a traveler for that to be possible! But sometimes, the most expected joy…comes in the most unexpected ways!

  • January 04, 2011
    Steve elmer

    Oh my gosh! I feel so happy right now, such a rad post. Inspirational for sure, you are a lucky lucky awesome person! Totally wrapped on seeing me and Julio as inspiration. You are so working with us!

  • January 04, 2011

    Goes without saying you’ll be rocking out a Wedding with us 😉 Can’t wait!

  • January 04, 2011

    See you in Australia! Can’t wait to meet IRL!
    Caroline in the City recently posted…Closing Time

  • January 04, 2011

    I can’t even tell you how excited for you I am. From one travel addicted photog to another, I wish you unexpected encounters with beautiful souls, cups of coffee in towns you can’t pronounce, amazing food you’ve never heard of before, and an endless supply of wonder and amazement at new surroundings. Your work is beautiful, and your writing is great. So excited to see what this year holds for you my friend. 🙂
    Brett recently posted…deep thoughts from a shallow mind a 2010 recap

  • January 04, 2011

    I can’t wait to meet you when you’re north of the Mason Dixon line! Come visit. Your photography will always be an inspiration to me too.

  • January 04, 2011

    Oh wow it certainly looks like you had a wonderful time on your travels! Good for you!
    Harriet recently posted…Wonga Scam

  • January 04, 2011

    The people I’ve met on my brief travels so far are my favorite parts of travel…and in some instances they ARE why I travel.

    I agree with Andi — positivity RADIATED through the post.

    Speaking of people, I’m sad so many great folks are coming to Oz as I’ll be leaving! Alas.
    Heather recently posted…Heather’s Holiday Hiatus

  • January 04, 2011

    I was so bummed to read that I’ll miss you in Argentina but I’ll be at TBEX!
    Ayngelina recently posted…2010- The year bacon got a little crazy

  • January 04, 2011

    As much as I do make most travel plans based on a specific place I want to see, you’re right that it’s the people that make it special. Whether it’s a person I went on the trip with or someone I met along the way, they are what makes a trip special. I’m so excited for you about all your travel plans for this year! Especially the photographers in Australia, that sounds incredible!
    Ali recently posted…A Love Letter to Prague

  • January 05, 2011

    Kirsten–
    Aside from a trip to Egypt in a few months, I’m actually setting aside 2011 to explore more of the US… more weekend trips to cities/states I’ve never been, as I realize I’ve spent most of my travels abroad. Savannah, Asheville, the beaches of Texas (I think you gave me this recommendation on Twitter, didn’t you?), the wine country and getaways of Virginia, Zion National Park, Montana… the list goes on.

    I definitely agree it’s often the company you’re with that makes a trip wonderful. The place certainly feeds into it all, but if you’ve got old friends with you, it truly doesn’t matter where you are.

    Paris sounds splendid. I’ve not been in 10 years. Looking forward to seeing your photographs from the trip!

    Cheers,
    Cheri
    Cheri Lucas recently posted…Interlude

  • January 07, 2011
    Matt

    Great post — it’s the small things we don’t expect in traveling that often leave the biggest impression on us. And yes, even the mishaps and frustrations are all part of the experience. Your trip sounds epic by the way!

  • January 07, 2011

    You are so spot on with what makes travel truly special! For example, one week ago today I was pulling into your old haunt, Cleveland for NYE. Even though I didn’t see any fireworks over landmarks or mind-blowing sunsets, the people made it an amazing travel experience. Jealous of your plans for ’11!

  • January 07, 2011

    I have similar feelings in terms of travel as wanting to “see” people. I love to travel for the funny moments with random people I meet. I feel whats great about meeting travelers all over the world in NYC, is that I can still experience some form of their “culture”, whether it be their language and/or the food they cook, even though I haven’t been to their respective countries. I’m hoping one day to do that, but in the mean time, I’m very content in learning bout countries, ways to travel through travelers that pass by the city.

    Good luck with the start of your trip in Paris!

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