In late 1970, my 20-year-old bohemian-natured mother packed three-year-old me, my infant sister, and our poodle Angel into a Fawn Beige 1963 Chevrolet Biscayne and we hit the road. Her original plan was to bring some friends from San Diego, California to Washington state. Somewhere between leaving and arriving, she decided it was important for her daughters to someday be able to say they'd been to every single state in the lower 48, so off we went, and for many months we traveled.
As a very young girl my concept of home consisted singly of being with my mother, so life was secure no matter the location. I don't have many specifics in my mind of our journey; only a few vague flashes of memories remain of the many destinations: laying in the back seat and looking up through the car window at mountains in northern California, playing in knee-deep North Dakota snow with my red boots-wearing dog, the flat endless plains of the Midwest, the giant cold Atlantic Ocean, the terrifying-to-me Burger King statue that sat out in front of every single restaurant. What I do remember with startling clarity is my mother cleaning hotel rooms for money, us girls in tow, the dog attached by a leash to the rolling supply cart, and how much I adored the car I called Biscuit, named such because I couldn't pronounce Biscayne. I didn't yet have all the words to identify the amazing sensations I felt as we rolled along but I remember I loved the wind in my face and hair, I enjoyed meeting new people, and I imagined myself and the baby sister as Princesses, and Biscuit was our golden carriage.
Alas, all good things come to their end and my mother's country-wide sojourn did so when my grandfather wired money to Sandusky, Ohio for a new set of car tires. He had a crying jag on the telephone with her because she had been alone on the road for months with her two small girls and the family dog. We slowly headed back home to New Orleans but did it in a circuitous fashion and managed to catch the East Coast on the way down so, in the end, we only missed the Northeast states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. After my mother's months-long road trip, I spent three years living with my father in Maryland during which time he brought me to Virginia, Pennsylvania and his hometown of Washington, D.C. on a regular basis to visit family and see the sights. At age seven I returned to New Orleans, to my mother and my southern family. My childhood remained chaotic and colorful; I'm pretty sure I've lived in nearly every part of New Orleans! Like most people on the Gulf Coast, we forayed into Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for beach vacations and up to Arkansas and Tennessee to enjoy the mountains. Texas was an occasional evacuation spot for hurricanes and while there, why not enjoy what was on offer? Such were my younger years, filled with local movement and regional travel, and I grew up with the expectation that I'd always be on the go.
Discovering the Joy of Immersive Travel
While I did manage a few short trips in my early adult years to some amazing non-Gulf Coast destinations - Los Angeles, Portland, Gatlinburg, Natchez, Virginia Beach - full-time work as an RN and raising two children kept me from significant travel all through my 20s and into my mid-30s. I decided to try travel nursing in my late 30s and did assignments in Redding, California and Tucson, Arizona. It was in those two places that I discovered a passion for slow travel and how it allowed me to experience the depth of being on location for an extended period of time. I was able to set up a household, enjoyed meeting and spending time with neighbors and new friends, I explored the surrounding areas to my heart's content on my days off, and I gained a true appreciation of the people, the cultural differences, the food, the architecture, the scenery, everything. As much as I already loved to travel, the immersive experience of living in another location, away from home, made very clear to me how little I really knew of the USA, and even less so of the world. In 2006, after a difficult and draining recovery from Hurricane Katrina, my husband and I bought another home in New Orleans, our youngest daughter graduated and flew the nest, and I began to create my domestic and international travel agenda.
Among some of us there's a saying that goes, "When you make plans, the Goddess laughs." And so it happened that my dreams of wandering the globe were thrown into mayhem thanks to a number of health crises in my 40s. Despite them, and a lingering decrease in my mobility that seems to be permanent, I've still managed to travel here and there around the USA and also to do some exploring in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland in 2015, 2018, and 2023. I move a bit more slowly than others but that actually lends itself to appreciation of the things many people miss when they're rushing! I have given myself permission to move at the pace that works well for me and I plan to experience the sacred beauty and wonder of our Mother Earth in as many places as possible for as long as can.
Still on the Go, Still Healing
All those years ago as a little bitty traveler around the US, as a girl growing up in the beautiful chaos that is New Orleans, and then healthy and on-the-go in my 20s and 30s, I couldn't fathom being a chunky, slow-traveling, middle-aged 50-something, but here I am! Despite a certain degree of difficulty at times, I continue to wander and explore. I've spent most of the last three years travelling full-time with my husband in our RV around the USA and I'm planning to be on the go again in Spring 2024, likely to the East Coast of Canada to learn more of my deep Acadian roots, and to Mexico to do some snorkeling, and who knows where else? The world truly is my oyster.
In addition to exploring places just for fun, genealogy-based travel - tree travel - is also on the menu, as it connects me directly to my ancestral healing work which has an effect on my current walk through life as a midlife woman. France is my next international venture, specifically the Alsace region, so that I can walk the streets of my 8th great-grandmother's birth place and perhaps find what I need to do further healing on this ancestral line. When I tree travel, it opens up my heart to my own history and to my sense of rightness and worth. It makes me feel less broken and erases shame and fear. It is healing in so many ways. It is my hope that I can encourage other women to step off the beaten path, to search their own roots for strength and wisdom, to venture into the unknown and allow the wonders of the ancestral world to wash over them like a clear flowing stream. There is healing to be found there.
May it be so.