In the small Sicilian town of Tusa, travel-weary but excited, my father walked into city hall. With help from my cousin, an ex-pat living in Florence, my father began to explain about the letters. Recognition lit up in the desk clerk’s eyes: “You’re the one! Yes, we’ve been waiting for you.”
Months before, my father had started a letter-writing campaign to anyone in Tusa with the last name matching his maternal great grandfather’s. His letters had inspired many inquiries: “Am I related to this mysterious American?” In one case, the answer was yes.
My father met his second cousin that day. He saw pictures of his great-uncle, and learned about his Italian heritage.
It’s how my dad always travels–with purpose, with enthusiasm, and with an insatiable curiosity for the world and its history.
He served in the Air Force in the mid-1960s, assigned to an intelligence post in Germany. For a kid who grew up poor on the wrong side of the tracks in Providence, RI, he took advantage of this opportunity to explore Europe.
After the service, my father brought his new-found wanderlust and a passion for history stateside. It was time to see his own country.
When he married my mother, they honeymooned in Gettysburg. After my brother and I were born, we spent our childhood on the road: posing for pictures at historic sites, singing around the campfire, helping to fold the map.
We weren’t always easy to travel with. We complained . . . a lot. Our feet hurt. We were hungry. And we were always, always b-o-r-e-d.
Except that we weren’t really bored. We were having the time of our lives.
My father is the reason I’m always planning two (or three, or four) vacations ahead. He’s the reason I studied abroad in college. He’s the reason I started this blog.
My father is the reason my children will see the world, as much as I can show them, and they will pass this legacy of exploration on to their children.
It’s a gift from my father that I will never be able to repay. But I’ll try, by embracing every opportunity to get away and to learn from the places I visit.
And when my own kids complain of being bored, I’ll smile. I know better.