It's like Sandra Bullock's character said so eloquently in While You Were Sleeping: "It's amazing how exotic Wisconsin...isn't."
But before you assume that I'm dedicating an entire blog entry to ripping apart my home state, rest assured, I'm not. There's plenty to love about Wisconsin—the Packers, for one. Cheese, and plenty of it, for another. And you gotta love how feisty Wisconsinites are about fighting for their rights. Let's just say the Beastie Boys would be proud.
Plus, if Wisconsin didn't exist, my personal history would've been radically altered. See, that's where my parents met, where I was born, not to mention where I spent the first 18 years of my life in a lovely yellow house on 11th street. So as much as I love to kid about Wisconsin, it's not a bad place in the least. It's just cold for months and months at a time, hence my departure...
Now back to what I was talking about in the beginning...travel. I've always been drawn to it like (insert your favorite simile here). In fact, many of my favorite books growing up—and even to this day—involved protagonists who lived, worked and played somewhere thousands of miles away from where I did—London, Paris, Sydney, Bangkok, Milan, Madrid, Salzburg, New York City, you name it. For whatever reason, their lives seemed so much more enchanting and exhilarating than my own, and whenever I read, I lived vicariously through those experiences—no passport required. And thanks to our local library, everyone else's adventures kept me going while I patiently waited for my own to begin.
Funny enough, as much as I thought about leaving my familiar confines, I didn't actually get my first passport stamp until I was 26. Unlike the bulk of the missions majors at the university I attended, visiting somewhere like Burman or Banglaedesh wasn't actually part of my course requirements, much to my chagrin. And since college kids aren't exactly known for their deep pockets, traveling just for the heck of it was out, too. So I was content to see a bit more of the United States whenever I could. The rest of the world would just have to wait.
And then, it finally happened. After moving to Nashville and starting my writing career with CCM Magazine, my journalism degree paid off in some international travel dividends. Our editor decided the time had come for an international music issue and would I be interested in flying to London to interview Delirious for the cover story?
Um, yes, please...
So just before Christmas in 2003, I flew to London all by myself. And while the idea of traveling alone—let alone traveling across the big ol' pond alone—would be downright depressing to some, I still consider it one of the best things I've ever done. While it probably sounds like I've been bunking with Oprah or something, I learned so much about myself on that trip, so I really can't recommend solo travel enough.
Sadly, none of the pictures I took did the experience justice (perhaps a testament to my shoddy photography skills?), but I still have so many vivid snapshots in my mind that instantly transport me back. Walking around Notting Hill, coffee in hand, looking at the candy-colored houses and wondering about the people who lived in them. Singing Christmas carols with a church-full of strangers during one of the prettiest holiday services I've ever been to. Eating fish and chips with a complete stranger at a local pub who had no idea who (gasp) U2 was, let alone where Tennessee was on the map. Riding the train through the countryside to Arundel and writing about my time in London in my journal (yeah, for the uninitiated, that's what life was like before tweeting was invented).
Basically, it was all as magical and wonderful as my younger self's dreams were.
Now several years and passport stamps later, I'm about ready to embark on another European adventure—with my dear husband. It's the first time we're traveling abroad together, and I can hardly wait. In addition to reconnecting with my favorite city on the planet, London, we're also heading to Hemingway's playground and the home of gladiators, the Sistine Chapel, and what I'm guessing is some pretty incredible spaghetti and gelato.
And while I definitely plan on taking lots and lots of pictures, I'm guessing the best memories will still be the ones I write down. So if you're game, plan on hearing all about the Banister's 5th anniversary trip (or as my friend Melissa Riddle-Chalos calls it, my second honeymoon) right here.
I do plan on tweeting about it from time to time while it's happening, too (thank you iPhone), but the goal is just to enjoy the moment. After all, I've been daydreaming about it for a long time now...