(Originally published at EisenhowersLastSmoke.org on 7/15/2013)
The summer after I turned 12, I went to camp somewhere in upstate New York. My mom took me to stay with my grandparents in Brooklyn , and then my grandfather (remember Ike) drove us to the city to meet up with the bus to camp. I had spent a lot of holidays and long weekends in Brooklyn, and had hardly been to any other part of New York, city or otherwise.
I remember the car ride to that bus clearly. I remember literally wishing it would go on forever. Not that riding around with my mom and grandparents was my tween ideal of a good time, but I was terrified of getting out of the car, and starting the new adventure I was about to have. Sleep away camp. For eight weeks. On my own – no sister with me, no school friends, no friends of friends. I wanted to go to camp, but I dreaded getting on that bus.
That 7th-grade feeling returned this past weekend, as I packed and repacked for my Eisenhower Fellowship to Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. I’ll hit about 10 different places in at least three climates over about five weeks. I’ll meet dozens of new people, and I’ll probably spend a lot of time alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to go on the fellowship. In fact, I cannot believe how lucky I am that I was chosen to have this experience or that I have such a supportive family and employer to enable me to do it. But traveling across the world, to a place I’ve never been, on my own, is frankly, as terrifying as it is exhilarating. Actually, more terrifying.
The plane ride to L.A. is like the car ride to the bus. I’m packed. I’m going. It’s really here and this is really happening. And now, all I can do is put one foot in front of the other. Follow my itinerary. Get to my hotel. And start exploring Australia and its health care system in search of ideas and insights to bring back home.
One of the best things my mother taught me was that I could always come home. Whenever I left on any trip or adventure, of which there have been many, my mom has always assured me that I could come home if it was terrible. And I’ve always believed her, that if I needed to bail, there’d be no judgment, and maybe even plane fare or a ride. But of course, I’ve never taken her up on it.
So Oz, here I come. One foot in front of the other. A laptop, a camera, a notebook, (yes, like with paper inside), and way too many outfits. But did I bring enough shoes?