For years, I’ve been asked the same question: Do you have a travel blog? Are you writing a book? Because being a freelance writing digital nomad, I get that a lot. And my answer has always been a sheepish no, at times with some lame excuse, like how because I write for a living, I don’t really feel like having my own thing on the side. And what would I have to add to the saturated world of travel blogging, anyway? Who cares that I’ve been to more countries than years I am old or that I haven’t lived in one place for more than 18 months in almost 15 years?
Well, to hell with that.
Travel has propelled me my entire life, fueled by a mother who spent her first 30 years locked up in the Soviet Union with a thirst to see the world. The only place to which she didn’t take me with her was Japan, because 5th grade is more important, I guess. But at three, I took my first international trip – to Garmisch, outside of Munich in southeast Germany. From then on, as an only child of a single mother, most school breaks were spent galavanting across Europe. Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona – I’d seen them all before entering middle school. Several spring vacations were spent in Italy, driving across the country in rented cars, my mother navigating the ancient cities’ streets and rolling hills of Tuscany.
We drove around America, too, which no doubt inspired the last four years of J and I zigzagging around the US and some of Canada. My mom drove us through 30 states in 33 days back in the summer of ’95, packed in a red leased Jeep Cherokee with my mother’s best friend and her daughter, five years my senior. It was a taste of the great wide open big sky country that created a lifelong longing in me for the American West and a deep fascination with the South as well.
And there were many trips to Russia, as it railed from the fall of its social structure and slowly scrambled to rebuild. My first memory – getting pulled over on the way from the airport the first time I arrived, alone at seven years old, my mother having dropped me off at the gate, and my grandmother greeting me in Moscow, for a document check. “I’m innocent,” I said, and put my hands up as the grown-ups chuckled. Next, a desolate grocery store with a few wilting heads of lettuce and bruised tomatoes. An empty shop, and getting baptized in a church with colorful onion domes by a handsome fellow who I thought resembled one of the three musketeers. And a summer in the countryside, at a rickety two-roomed house with attached kitchen and no running water, purchased to escape potential war as well as summers in the city. The ornate wooden window frames and wildflowers in open fields, and blueberries smashed with sugar into porcelain cups.
My mother left me there for a month with my extended family, but mostly, I traveled with her. One summer, she sent me to The American School in Switzerland, a small camp in Lugano, right on the border with Italy, full of wealthy European children, some spoiled Russians, and a few American kids. I was at my most awkward, with a bowling ball for a face and a much too sturdy stature for a 12-year-old girl. Also, blonde highlights. I didn’t make any lasting friendships, but a sweet Venezuelan girl did try to keep me from falling asleep when we saw Aida at the open-air arena in Verona. While there, I happened to bump into a man I knew at the hotel we were staying at. He was a friend of my mother’s, and I’d seen him around in New York. It was the first of many of such random encounters I’d have in various cities for the rest of my life. Actually, I kind of live for those kinds of serendipitous moments.
Anyway, I’ve been around, and I want to try to find some way to talk about it, and to document my journeys. We’ll see what happens here.