It’s been exactly a year since Spencer and I wandered the streets of San Francisco at the tail end of our California vacation. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long . . . but in others, so much has changed in 12 months. Good things, bad things, great things — and just thing things. I feel like I’ve done a lot of living and changing and growing in a year. And like all travel, I didn’t come home the same person I was when I left.
California has a special place in my heart. My dad went there on a college trip — his first time away from the East Coast — and promptly became enamored with San Francisco. His new love for the city ran so deep that, when my parents married shortly thereafter, he returned with her on their honeymoon. I grew up hearing stories about Lombard Street, that crooked one, and Alcatraz. The Golden Gate Bridge. The cable cars.
When Spence and I were trying to choose where to go on our OMG-I-won vacation, California came immediately to mind. And we had a fabulous time and ate awesome things. I know I babble about Yosemite, but that’s only because I loved it so deeply. I felt the same way after I visited London for the first time in 2007 — and then when I returned in 2009, and in 2011. (And since I’m apparently on an every-other-year schedule, I’m due for another English excursion.)
We all have a place that feels like . . . home. It may not be the town in which you grew up or have family, or really a place with any ties that bind. But you arrive and set your suitcase down, breathing in the cool or salty or humid air, and something about this destination just feels like it. You see another world and you change.
What’s the difference between a place you love to visit and a place that burrows into your heart? A sense of tranquility, maybe. I’ve visited many amazing towns, taken in the views and felt like a better person for having seen such beauty. But only a few places actually imprinted on my soul, for lack of a better explanation: London and San Francisco. Daydreaming about either place is my go-to having-a-bad-day fantasy. If my Flickr photo files were tangible objects, they’d be worn and threadbare from handling. I look at those pictures more than I’d care to admit.
Part of my attachment is, of course, due to where I was in my life at the time. In 2007, I was a freshly-minted college grad on a big trip with her family. In 2009, I was fresh out of a break-up and ready to take big chances. In 2011, I was in love again — and better this time — and going abroad with my parents and sister before Kate and I both became engaged and strengthened our family to a unit of six. And last year, in 2012, Spence and I were on our first trip together: just the two of us.
When I flip through my favorite shots from each of those trips, I’m remembering less of what I did and more of how I felt. That’s why I travel: to feel both closer to and farther away from myself. To allow myself to experience child-like wonder before a waterfall, or to try an exotic food I could never find at home.
I travel to come away with stories. Ones I can tell for the rest of my life.
Which cities or places hold a special place in your heart? Do you remember more of what you did, or more of how you felt? What’s a city you’re dying to see? (And if you have city recommendations, here or abroad, I’m all ears. I love travel suggestions.)