It wasn’t until my feet were drenched in the Pacific Ocean that I understood how much I loved to travel. Growing up, my definition of a vacation was a week spent in Walt Disney World. Don’t get me wrong, I love a week spent in the Happiest Place on Earth. They have dole whip and beautiful temperatures, palm trees, and “Part of Your World” on repeat so often it brings tears to my eyes. I attest that my fanatical Disney family is responsible for me as an adult, wanting my week off from work to be spent in an overpriced park in Florida with nothing less than a castle suited for a queen and endless supply of turkey legs.
When you’re in a family who typically has the same vacation year after year after year, you’ll get asked on more than one occasion “Isn’t there anything else you’d rather see?” That phrase right there was like someone spewing dynamite. As an adult, I’ve scoffed at this ridiculous question many, many times as I looked down at my Mickey watch, agitated at their question.
…until one day, I finally understood what they had meant. When I met my fiance, we made a pact that we’d see the world. Turns out the “world” was three stints in Disney, one long-weekend spent at a haunted hotel in Salem, Massachusetts, and a whole lot of saved itineraries on Southwest Airlines’ website. For years we had been discussing how cool it’d be to visit Portland, Oregon. We looked at the itinerary and then would flip Netflix back on and that’d be that until the next itch came along we did nothing about.
Earlier this month we decided to just fucking do it. We packed our bags and booked our hotel an hour before our flight took off. No itinerary. No car booked for when we landed. No idea what to do or what there was to do. We just left, not looking back and figuring we’ll figure out the rest when we get there; a problem “future us” would somehow solve.
We landed and the city took our breath away. We spent hours at the Portland Saturday Market, having some guy carve gnomes of us out of clay. We ate roasted corn as a snack. We drove over gorgeously constructed bridges that look like larger than life works of art. We drank tea from a tea garden, read books from quaint little hole-in-the-wall shops, rode a tram hundreds of feet in the sky across the city, dangling over buzzing streets and loud cyclists and a city, wholly illuminated. We drank artisan coffees and lavender mochas and spiced orange cappuccinos. We bought art off the wall of a coffee shop that closed at three. We walked unfamiliar blocks until they felt like home.
When it was time to fly home, it was like we couldn’t be ready. Couldn’t be ready for this trip to end. Couldn’t be ready to return to normal, routine-filled life back home. Jet-lagged or not, when we got back home we realized all we wanted to do was scratch that itch again.
The world is so much more than Disney World. It sounds like a stupid, asinine fact to even mutter. I fell in love with the world, with the west coast and the foaming sea. I fell in love with a buzzing city, illuminated, coursing with an energy that flowed through its veins, twisting and turning with every curving path, every food truck.
I crave that feeling again. I want to taste it, digest it. That old saying that the ‘world is my oyster’ finally makes perfect sense.