Growing up on the heavily metropolitan East Coast and taking family vacations every year is what gave me the travel bug at an early age.
I’ve been traveling since I was kid, going on a fall vacation with my family every year. Ironically, I still haven’t visited some iconic cities such as Boston or Philadelphia, as most of my siblings have at some point. But my heart was always in New York City for as long as I can remember. Only recently am I coming to realize that growing up in a big city has given me a special love for cities. Seeing my obsession with photographing architecture and noticing the thrill I get from trying to master a city’s metro system, and now writing about it, have brought me to the conclusion that I am most likely an #urbanophile.
The richness of the East Coast: History and geography.
Growing up in the education system on the East Coast allowed us to go on some fantastic field trips to many infamous places in American history. One of my favorite field trips in elementary school was a visit to Monticello, the beautiful neoclassical plantation with a rotunda, designed and owned by Thomas Jefferson. We also took a field trip to Red Cross founder Clara Barton’s house which was quite impressive.
My father was a history buff among many things and he enjoyed taking us on educational trips whenever possible. Two of my mother’s favorite places to visit will always be Colonial Williamsburg and the historic Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. We learned about a different time and way of life, a different culture. It was something I remembered learning from being even younger when we traveled north into Pennsylvania to see Amish country.
Having these kinds of travel experiences throughout my childhood cultivated an appreciation for world cultures, heritages, and people.
My father had a love for the earth and nature, something he passed along to me. He loved Native American heritage and culture, and their deep connection with nature. He loved trees and leaves, and having grown up around the flat marshlands of Louisiana’s Deep South, he fell in love with the mountains as an adult. He had a buddy that lived in California, my “Uncle Carl” I called him, and they would meet up to hike different mountains together around the country.
I remember getting up early and putting on my hot pink and turquoise hiking boots as a little girl to go on early morning hikes on Sugarloaf Mountain with my dad. Mountain hiking became a family affair and was a special pastime that we shared with friends. As an adult, I can see how much these parts of my father made me who I am today.
Worldwide Church of Who Cares?! We get to travel!
My parents joined a religious organization called “Worldwide Church of God,” which is now considered a cult, over a decade before I was born and eventually left when I was a preteen in middle school. I was too young to understand most of what was happening during that time. But one thing I do remember is every fall, there would be a worldwide event called the Feast of Tabernacles where we would get to travel to one of many selected host cities worldwide to attend church there for a week.
With five children, we would usually only travel from Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia, or to Virginia Beach if we were lucky. It was always exciting to get to go somewhere new for a week and stay in a different place, especially if it was on the beach! My dad tended to be an extravagant spender when he could, even with five children. We usually stayed in the Omni Hotel or the Embassy Suites. I remember always having a blast on these trips. There would be one day during the week called Family Day I believe, where you could spend the day with your family doing something fun in the area, which for us, was usually Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, or Jamestown.
One year, we went down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and stayed in a resort on the beach. I think I was only seven years old so I don’t remember much about the beach. I do remember getting to eat at my first Hard Rock Cafe there, which was in the shape of a giant pyramid. Being raised in a musical family made this an extra special experience for me to see musical memorabilia, famous outfits, incredible instruments. I also remember we spent a day in historic Charleston, something I’m hoping to experience with my mother again on a Colonial Road Trip.
California, California, here we come!
When I was eight years old, I went on my first airplane ride when my dad decided to have our Feast trip in Palm Springs, California. His hiking buddy, Uncle Carl and his wife Aunt Nancy, lived in West Covina, which is just outside of Los Angeles. We stayed in their house for nearly a week, my parents, brother, one of my sisters, and me. Then when the Feast started, we all went to Palm Springs for the week (they were members, too). The only Disney experience I’ve ever had was in California when we went to Disneyland. Although I will always be a “Disnerd” for life, I’ve had an old soul since I was a child, and Universal Studios was much more exciting and memorable. I still treasure my little autograph book that I toted all through both parks each day.
I got to meet stars like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, which is probably part of why I love Old Hollywood and vintage glamour.
Back in the days before the internet was a thing and before mobile phones were everywhere, my parents were navigating California old school-style with Atlas maps and highlighters, no GPS. There were still many things I didn’t get to do then that I would make up for later, like see the Hollywood sign or the Pacific Ocean. But boy, what an experience to fly on a airplane across the country to see California for the first time! I knew one day I’d have to go back. #starryeyed
First big bites of the Big Apple: A magical non-Christmas in the city
Around Christmastime in 1997, a deacon in our church who grew up in Long Island, New York, offered to take our youth group on a trip to New York City. Ironically, our church didn’t celebrate Christmas at that time, but nonetheless, my first trip to Manhattan was still magical and life-changing for a twelve-year old girl. That’s still the only time I’ve ever been to the top of the Empire State Building, an amazing experience of which only glimpses remain in my memory. But we got the full experience on that trip. We even got to buy knockoffs on Canal Street, which was awesome for a bunch of kids in the city for the first time.
We all voted to only take a boat tour around the Statue of Liberty at a time when you were still allowed to go up to the top, a choice I bet many of us regretted a few years later.
For a first-time visit, we got to check off some classic New York “must dos.” We walked through Times Square. We ice skated in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and saw a couple in matching red coats stop and get engaged in the middle of the rink when he skated up to her on his knee. Of course, the entire plaza erupted in cheers. And then, it snowed. What an unforgettable experience! It was the following summer I believe, that I spent two weeks with a best friend at her grandparents’ house at the end of Sutter Avenue in Queens, New York. This is where I finally had my first New York-style pizza. Sadly, I’ve still never been to a Yankees game.
Born on the bayou, but a city girl at heart.
Although I was born in Louisiana, my family moved up to Washington D.C. when I was a baby. I spent my first thirteen years up north before moving back down just before high school. At some point after our trip to California, my second flight was down to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport for Thanksgiving. It was so exciting once again to be on an airplane going anywhere. We didn’t get to do much sight-seeing, but I did get to meet a lot of family for the first time.
My maternal grandmother was quite the #wanderlust herself. She was a single mother in the 1950s, raising four kids by herself, working hard to provide. Yet, she still found ways to take her family on incredible #vacations – a woman by herself in the 1950s and ’60s! My mom can remember seeing the Grand Canyon, but her favorite trip was San Francisco. My grandmother didn’t have much, but she was rich in experiences. She was able to travel into her seventies when she finally made her way through France and Belgium, and other parts of Europe, with tour groups. I am sure that I inherited that part of her. Even though I’m a Southern girl by blood, I’ll always be a city girl at heart who can’t get enough of the world. Wanderlust is in my genes. #seetheworld