The small turtles emerge from their soft opaque eggs. They push their noses up above the sand and in turn make mad dashes across the beach down to the ocean beyond. They have no prior knowledge of the sea but these turtles’ instinctual need has been weaved into their subconscious of centuries past. This lifelong adventure has finally arrived and as the moon emerges from behind the clouds, a trained ear can almost hear the sound of flippers sliding into the waves.
On Tuesday morning, I watched Tony lug a heavy black suitcase, small backpack and ukelele case down the driveway and into my car. I had offered Tony, a high school friend’s younger brother, a ride back to Northampton and he had graciously accepted. After graduating from Amherst College in May, Tony wanted to make some last minute trips before leaving the country. His final destination: Nepal.
Tony will spend the better part of a year living in Kathmandu, living at a school and teaching Nepalese children. This trip will be Tony’s first time on the airplane. It will also be his first trip out of the country and the first time he will spend 10 months in a place where the primary language isn’t English. A fleet of maiden voyages rolled into one massive vessel.
On the car ride to Northampton, we talked about the experience and value of visiting a foreign country. He asked me about homesickness and culture shock. I told him about the transition returning home and the sad reality that your family and closest friends will not really care about your experience so different from their daily lives. I told him to take pictures and journal often. I told him this trip would teach him as much about himself as the world as a whole.
I distinctly remember my first international trip to Paris and first airplane flight to Tucson. I remember the six months in Denmark, navigating a foreign city as if it was my home and all the countries since then in my journal, camera and memory. My love of travel hatched early and since graduating high school, I spent every year planning my next great adventure.
For some, the first life-changing travel experience happens much later in life or does not happen at all. I can only hope that every person who wants to see a new city, visit a new country or explore a new culture has the opportunity to do so in his or her life. It is not so important when the turtles reach the ocean as long as they make it off the shore.