By JIM HUNT
author, speaker, consultant
Flying to Seattle this past week I was seated next to a pilot for American Airlines who was headed home after a week of flying around the country. He was a nice fellow and we shared stories of our respective travels throughout our lives. He asked me a question that I had not thought about in many years. “How did you get started traveling?” he asked. I thought for a minute and finally said that my mother gave me my love for travel. I explained that as a young boy, my mother announced to us that she was going to visit her relatives in Slovakia. I was so surprised and had never even heard of anyone traveling overseas. I had a thousand questions but before I knew it, we were watching her climb the stairs on the big silver airplane that would start her on her journey.
When she came home, we could not wait until her pictures were developed and she told us stories of this wonderful land halfway around the globe. While my brothers and sisters asked about our relatives and what their houses were like, I was asking about the airports and how they looked at her passport when she came back into the country. I wanted to know if the people knew English and what the money was like. My mother became my travel consultant and seemed to have an answer to every inquiry I was making.
One of my first trips by myself was as an 8th grader at Central Junior High School when we went on a class trip to New York City with our Social Studies teacher Mrs. Dodds. As the bus left Clarksburg, I checked my gym bag and saw that my mother had packed me a brand-new toothbrush, a couple of shirts and two pair of new underwear. After a seven-hour bus ride, we looked out the window and saw the New York skyline with the Empire State Building seeming to touch the clouds.
The trip lasted two days and we saw the Statue of Liberty, the Bowery, Central Park, Park Avenue, a nightclub, and I spent my first night in a ‘real’ hotel. We arrived back in Clarksburg late at night and totally exhausted, but I could not wait to tell my mother about all the wonderful things we saw. She listened to all my travel story and countless others as I flew to one destination after another and always seemed interested in even the smallest detail.
Over the years, I wondered how I could repay my mother for the encouragement to travel and the experience of seeing different cultures and history. I decided to pay this amazing gift forward and encourage my own children and others to take advantage of the opportunity to travel. I regularly speak and interact with multiple young people and I let them know that travel is a gift that can never be taken away and the younger you start, the longer the memories stay with you.
As my long flight to Seattle was landing, my seatmate looked over at me and said, “You must have an Amazing mother!” I smiled and said, “Yes I do!”