It all began in the summer of 1991...
I had just finished the 5th grade and was beyond thrilled to have an entire summer to relax, play and spend time with friends before the fall when junior high would start. However, during dinner one night in late June, my father, with his wild ideas, had other plans in store for me and my summer of '91. My first reaction to the news was devastation. I couldn't imagine how I was going to go on with my life, not seeing my friends or having my anticipated routine for what felt like an entire year. After reluctantly packing my bags and saying my goodbyes, it turned out that spending 57 days traveling across the US with my family in a motorhome would be one of the best experiences of my entire life; turning me into an explorer with an intense passion and appreciation for travel and forever seeking adventure.
Every day of that cross-country trip my father and I would pull out a blue spiral bound notebook and write about the events of our day; the weather and temperature, the route we took, what we did, where we stayed and what we ate. We each took turns writing in the book and sharing our favorite moments from the day. And after every border crossing, we would add a colorful state sticker to the map of the USA we kept on the back of our motor-home. It was incredibly rewarding and celebratory each time we got to check another state off the list.
As we crossed the USA those 57 days were packed with memories to last a lifetime. We got to see family and old friends of my father's, meet new fellow travelers, visit where my parents eloped in Las Vegas, had a snowball fight in tank tops on glacier national park, see the remnants of a tornado, watch the Mets play in Candlestick Park, see Mt. Rushmore both during the day and lit up at night, learn so much about American history, have our faces sketched into art on the streets of New Orleans, listen to Willie Nelson, experience a Native American Pow-wow, see Bison up close and personal roam on the range, stand in front of awesome redwood trees, take in the Pacific ocean for the first time, eat chowder at Fisherman's Wharf, watch Flamenco in Santa Barbara, visit the Alamo, see hot air balloons launch in New Mexico, experience national parks galore, and a bonus visit to the border town of Tijuana, Mexico.
Before the cross-country trip, my family would always take small vacations. Every couple of years we would drive down to Florida and every four years we would drive north to Maine. In between, there were trips to Pennsylvania and Delaware or to upstate New York and Canada. And my mother from Puerto Rico would take us back to the island to see her extended family. We rarely did international travel, but loads of road trips, as they were our thing. America is vast and diverse and beautiful and significant and I know I wouldn't have had this perspective if my parents weren't bold enough and daring enough to dream up and make this cross-country trip happen.
For my father's 70th birthday, I wanted to gift him something truly special and irreplaceable and find a way to truly demonstrate thanks. So I spent months typing up every single page of that cross-country trip journal and sorting and sifting through all the old paper photos to try and match up the images with the entries. As a result, I created a hard-bound book memorializing the trip as not only a gift for my father but as a family heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation to keep the spirit of travel and adventure alive within our family and keep my father's legacy alive. It is never a small feat to realize one's dreams.
I know without my father's adventurous spirit and his deep love for travel I would not have been bitten by the travel bug. Big dreams, hard work, and deep courage are truly the right components for a recipe of living life to the fullest. And I am so grateful that I've had the chance to witness his venturesome attitude so I could later visit all 50 US states and be able to quit my job and travel the world to see as many countries as I have and cross all 7 continents.