To do something twice, I must have a good reason and, more importantly, I must have liked it the first time.
As I am posting a second blog entry, it stands to reason that I enjoyed my first experience. I did, in fact. And I do. I’ve spent some time reading a few other blogs and managing my widgets, whatever they are, and I get a ridiculous kick out of the little counter that tells me how many readers have visited my site. It is narcissistic and self-indulgent, as expected, but this is something I need to get over if I intend to forge a living selling my words.
And so, as my last entry was about taking the first step, this one is about starting off on the right foot.
My first experience with travel came early in life. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old and my dad moved to New York City, an arrangement that really didn’t become awesome until I was a teenager and commercialism had me in a headlock. As a little girl, it was kind of a drag going down to visit because I had to travel as an unaccompanied minor and hold hands with flight attendants who smelled like laundry and cigarette smoke.
The very first trip I can remember with any accuracy was to meet up with my dad in Montreal when I was 5. It was actually brilliant because it meant that my mom could put me on a plane in New Brunswick and he could meet me at the other end without my having to make a connecting flight or go through customs. Considering I was at an age when my number 3 and letter E looked pretty much identical on paper, I wasn’t really in any position to be filling out declarations at the border.
When I talked to my dad on the phone in the weeks leading up to our trip, he told me about the Hotel Bonaventure, where we would be staying, and how it had a rooftop swimming pool. He said the pool was both indoors and outdoors, and that you could swim between the two through what I could only assume was some sort of magic portal or secret passage. Maybe he said this once in passing, maybe we talked about it at length for weeks leading up to the trip. I really couldn’t say. What I do know is that I was terrified of the indoor/outdoor rooftop swimming pool to the point that I couldn’t sleep at night and almost bailed on the trip altogether.
What if I got stuck between the indoor part and the outdoor part? How long was I going to have to hold my breath in order to make it from one pool to the other? Were there even lifeguards in there?!
Ultimately, I did go to Montreal and I even packed my swimsuit. My dad had actually gone to the Olympics for swimming and knew his way around a pool, so I decided that I would check it out as long as he came with me. As it turned out, the indoor pool was quite small and in order to get outside to the hip and happening rooftop section, one had only to pass through a curtain of clear plastic strips like what you see at the end of the baggage claim carousel at the airport. There was no magic portal, no secret passage. I was equal parts relieved and disappointed.
Either way, though, I wasn’t taking any chances. You couldn’t actually see the outside pool through the plastic and who knew what was going to happen between here and there? I made him promise, PROMISE, to stay beside me the entire time and, in the end, actually climbed onto his back and held on like a little walrus calf until we had cleared the curtain and made it safely to the other side. I’m pretty sure it was shallow enough for him to walk the entire way.
At my most whimsical and dramatic, I could never have imagined the scene that lay before me as I lifted my foggy little goggles and opened my eyes. I had been so terrified of drowning in an imaginary tunnel that it had never occurred to me how absolutely cool it would be to swim on the roof of a hotel in the middle of downtown Montreal. The pool was surrounded by trees that were lit up by a million tiny white lights. Maybe it was before Christmas. I don’t remember. But it was definitely winter because the deck was covered in snow and it was, in fact, snowing. I climbed off my dad’s back and stood in the middle of the shallow end catching snowflakes on my tongue and watching city lights twinkle against the night sky. I couldn’t tell you one other thing about that trip, but this memory is as clear and exciting to me today as it was when I was 5.
As it were, my trip to Montreal served a very practical and specific purpose, which was to spend time with my father. At the same time, however, it was a positive first experience and would effectively set the stage for a life spent traveling and living in cities and countries around the world. The next time an opportunity presented itself to hop on a plane and go somewhere new, I had a fond memory to refer to and was easily sold, which led to another positive experience, and so on. Consequently, to this day, I love to travel and can pack a bag faster than you can say ‘road trip’. I have visited and lived in more places than I have fingers and toes. Life’s a trip.
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