10-Year Anniversary Blog
I remember getting the call from my executive producer at the Travel Channel that the network wanted to celebrate my ten years on the network. TEN YEARS?! I honestly hadn’t been counting or if I had it wasn’t that high. My own mind told me it was eight but sure enough when I did the math — ten.
And oh the places I’ve gone in those ten years, my eyes have seen things I never dreamed they would: The Acropolis, Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China and my heart has opened to experiences I never thought I would have. Most of all my idea of what travel is and why it is important has changed completely. When I first began the European series I was focused on monuments, museums and beautiful things that showed a glorious past. But quite frankly that left me feeling pretty lonely. Although my shooting days were overwhelmed with the learning of another place (The Romans! The Greeks! The Hapsburgs!), something big was missing in my life. When the cameras stopped for the day I would just head out for a walk, what I was searching for exactly I didn’t know. I guess I wanted to find a small piece of the town, city or country I was in that I could call my own, a part of a place that I could feel intrinsically without the help of a history or travel guide to show me its importance.
And I found it.
On my walks I would naturally gravitate to neighborhoods that were far from the Champs-Elysees, or the Spanish Steps. These were the neighborhoods of just regular people and I would walk thru their parks with them as they came home from work, wander the aisles of grocery stores as they thought about preparing dinner and sit down to eat with them at their local cafés.
And I loved it.
Those walks recharged my batteries. I recognized my own life in theirs and yet also saw how it was a bit different. It may have been normal everyday life but it was in another place around the world and to me that made it extraordinary.
I also found something that I was finally good at. I was good at connecting with people, of recognizing their subtleties and appreciating them for it. I wanted to look for what made a place more human and therefore intimate, looking past a Classical, Baroque or Renaissance façade to find out what was happening now. How were the people today? Yes we all know that Michelangelo was a genius but what about that older gentleman over there roasting chestnuts by the Vatican? How long has he had his tiny cart on that corner? What do his hands look like? Has he ever seen the Pope?
For me it’s rarely the big ticket items of travel but the hidden jewels of humanity that plant tiny seeds which grow deep in my soul.
So I guess that would be my focus as I approach every place I am lucky enough to go to. I love being somewhere where I am the only person who looks like me in the room. I don’t speak the language and I barely understand what is going on but now it’s up to me to find out, it’s my job as a traveler to figure out how to connect with the people and discover their culture. I learn about them and I learn a lot about myself in the process.
I’ve also learned that travel is not a luxury but a necessity. We need to travel. We are all trying to figure out who we are in this life we’ve been given and nothing gives us that opportunity like travel. It doesn’t have to be big trips 5,000 miles away for months at a time. It really can just be a weekend trip, two hours from your hometown. Because no matter where or how far you go, travel marks a new beginning a chance to open our minds and see things in a different light.
As I write this I am 35,000 feet above the earth, I just passed the Arctic bay a few hours ago and the sky is slowly turning that orangey-pink you see in Impressionist paintings. I’m coming home from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. It was an amazing adventure but after being gone for 25 days I am really ready to be home. I am so close that the plane and “New York” finally appear together on the flight map showing on the tiny screen in front of me. Soon I’ll see my husband of three years and my cat of 17. Soon my days of exploring 800 year old Cambodian temples and hanging out with Thai elephants will be replaced with sorting thru mail, picking up dry cleaning, meeting up with friends and lying on the couch watching reality television.
It’s my everyday life and it’s extraordinary.