This year I was lucky enough to have crossed off my bucket list item of being to every state in the country. It’s one of the things I love most about being an actor. Meeting people, seeing different places, eating local foods, trying different customs. I also got to take a DREAM vacation with my husband to France and Italy this spring. Theatre has taken me to Europe and all across Asia. I’ve fallen victim to an insatiable case of Wanderlust and I hope that I am never rid of it.
My first boyfriend, who was many years my senior, and I once had a conversation about travel. Even at eighteen years old, I knew I was meant to ramble. I remember he said to me “Why bother? I’ve been around and every place is the same.”
Each place has a heart. Each place has a different future it’s seeking. Every city has a past that it either wants to celebrate or erase. There is food that locals love, there’s some that they hate. Places to visit. Different populations of immigrants. College towns. Small towns. Cities and deserts. Just like people, no two places are the same.
That boyfriend of mine, I thought was speaking from a place of wisdom. He was older. He had traveled more than I had. Surely, his was the more informed opinion. I was made to feel foolish and childish because of my naïveté. I know better now. Though it’s true that one can find the comforts of home just about anywhere, you can, if you look, find a completely different perspective and condition. That’s the thing that fascinates me: the duality. I love travel because in each place I go, I can see parts of myself, and, more than that, I can experience things so disconnected from what I know. I’m allowed to enjoy both of those. It’s ok to be in Shanghai, China and go grab a familiar Starbucks coffee to take into the alien Yuyuan Garden.
I luxuriate in fulfilling the creature comforts of a good meal, a trip to the nail salon, a drink at the local dive bar. You can find these places anywhere you go. But the Chicago Art Institute is not in every city. You don’t find the Lumber Jack Show anywhere outside of Ketchikan, Alaska. There isn’t more than one Pike Place Market. The catacombs of Paris can’t be found in the States. It’s not just anywhere that you can happen upon a traditional wedding at one of the largest Hindu shrines in the world. I don’t know many places that host a Military Tattoo for thousands of people, and haggis sure as hell isn’t taking over the Fried Chicken market in Nashville.
Travel is a blessing. Travel is a novelty, a pleasure and also a pain in the ass. It brings you joy, it brings you digestive problems. It makes you face your fears and brings people into your life that you’ll never forget. It exposes what you’re made of, the good and the bad. It’s exhausting. It’s revitalizing. Traveling has made me who I am, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.