Square One

The most logical place to start would be my first travel experience. While I don't remember it myself, I have been told enough times to understand how my mother and I got here, and how I got onto this end of my passport pages. 

I was born in Jordan, to a mother and father who had been born and raised there as well. Maybe it's because Jordan has a rich nomadic history. Maybe it's the restless blood of my dad who traveled often before he married, and who later made the journey that saved my mom's life. 

When I wasn't yet two, my parents and I made our first trip to the United States as a family. My mom had been diagnosed with a type of lymphoma, and her doctors in Jordan had advised that if we could, we should have her treated in the United States. My mom hadn't known about my dad's citizenship until we knew we needed it.

Two years later, my mom was in remission, my dad was buried in Daly City, and after some going back and forth, we were returning again to the United States. The plan was to start a new life as widow and daughter, somewhere in California, or as it felt then, wherever the wind blew us. 

Maybe it was the adaptable nature of my mother in these times. We didn't have many options other than being adaptable, but it was more than that. If I've learned anything about my mother's heart, it's that it is only fixed on compassion. She had her heart set on nothing else but taking care of those she loved. Where we lived was of little consequence to her, as long as she could make it work for us. 

I think my compulsion to travel comes from very early lessons in the value of experiencing that which is foreign to you. My early life was an indecisive whirlwind of moves back and forth between Jordan and Northern California; once we tried a suburb of Denver to be with my mom's family instead of my dad's. This little blip of new experience, a one year experiment in the middle of America, showed me that you don't have to leave a country to experience a different culture. With hindsight now, I know what felt strange then in Colorado was that it was like California, but something was different. Some things they called by different words, and I didn't understand how two places in America could use different slang. Either way, we returned to Colorado only for visits after that year.

Soon after we settled back in Sacramento, we returned to Jordan. I was 11, and I would be attending seventh grade in my hometown of Zarka. I was old enough this time to appreciate the depth of differences, and my mother took every opportunity to show me Jordan.

We trekked Petra together before it was a world wonder, and my mother took me through Syria when it was still Syria. I see Aleppo on the news today and I remember how it was my favorite city; I see pictures of rubble and and bombs and I can still see historic fortresses and wide beautiful streets in the dust. 

That is the value of travel. The place you live is not the perfect place with all the answers just because it it what you are accustomed to, that's just what you know best. Travel is important because we need to understand each other, we need to see that more than one way of life works for people. Travel shows you that what the news says is not absolute; it shows you that there are no absolutes. 

My first journey constructed who I am, and every journey since then wrecks and rebuilds me again. You keep rebuilding, and you keep talking to people like you and not like you at all. I understand myself and the world through travel, and all we can do to gain understanding is to seek it.