I generally think of Shon and myself as well-traveled. While we don’t fall into the “visited 100 countries and counting!” category, like some of the travel bloggers I follow, together we’ve explored Guatemala, Belize, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, and a handful of other Latin American countries. Individually, we’ve seen a fair bit of Europe. And we know New Jersey inside and out. On a recent trip to New Orleans, though, this “well-traveled” notion of mine was turned on its head, and I realized that when it comes to one particular type of travel, it’s like we’ve never left home at all.
We were on a plane a little over a month ago when I realized our travel shortcoming. Our bags were stowed. Our seat belts were buckled. The flight attendants had finished miming their safety instructions. Nothing about our flight from New York to New Orleans was out of the ordinary, but something still felt off.
It wasn’t our packing. I knew Shon, Ben, and I had the essentials (things to entertain Ben). Our Airbnb lodging was in order. We would be staying just outside the French Quarter in the Tremé district and meeting our host for the keys to his house upon arrival. Getting to and through JFK had been easy. We had even remembered the baby.
As our plane taxied from the hangar and Ben bounced in Shon’s arms, I gave up trying to figure out what was wrong and instead tried to picture New Orleans, which we were visiting for the first time. I imagined historic homes, lively streets, and towering plates of Cajun and Creole fare.
We were heading to the Crescent City to meet our friends Astrid and Alejandro from Guatemala. Astrid and I would be running a half-marathon, but for the most part, our plans were to eat, drink, explore, repeat. We weren’t visiting for work. We weren’t visiting to see family. We were visiting just for fun.
And that’s when it hit me, the reason why our trip felt so strange: For the first time ever in our 12 years together, Shon and I were flying somewhere in the States for vacation.
That can’t be right, I thought, as I ran through memories of trips past. We had flown to Montana and Ohio, but those visits had been family affairs. There were trips to Vermont, Maine, D.C., the Adirondacks, and the Catskills, but each was by car. We had both vacationed in more far-flung places like Florida and California, but not together. Indeed, it was true. We had never hopped a flight for a family holiday in the States.
I’ve been mulling over this fact for a month now and thinking a lot about travel and about how the majority of our trips have required a passport. Shon and I are truly lucky to have seen so much of the world, and I treasure the many memories we have of exotic locales. But this new awareness suddenly has me itching to get out and explore our own backyard. I’ve been fantasizing about Oregon’s Crater Lake, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, and California’s Pacific Coast Highway the way I normally would Spain or Vietnam. So much of the States awaits us, and I can’t wait to hit the skies to explore it with Shon, and now Ben.
And so a question for you, reader: Where would you recommend we head? What are your favorite U.S. destinations? (And yes, New Orleans was the perfect way to kick off our Stateside travels; more on that to come!)