I think every person who loves to travel probably has a personal Eskimo in their background—someone who encouraged them to believe in the world and the magic that can happen when they’re open to other people and their cultures.
For me, that person is my father. This is for him.
My father is the happiest person I know. And nothing on earth makes him happier than travel.
He’s been around the world several times and with all his travels, all his plane rides, all his airport waits and taxi rides, he’s never lost his zeal or excitement for new places. When he was young, my father wanted to be a diplomat. And he would have been a good one, too.
But he was poor. So when NYU offered him more money to get his MBA than Syracuse University did to study for the Foreign Service, he put aside his dreams and went to NYU. But he never complained because my father is not a complainer.
When most people are asked, “How are you doing?” they typically answer, “OK” or “fine.” But not my dad. My whole life I’ve heard him respond to this question by launching into a story about his latest discovery—a great new restaurant, a terrific play, an amazing movie—some new delight you had to know about.
These days when I phone my dad to ask how he’s doing, he says, “OK, I guess,” or “Things are all right.” And each time he says it, I cry.
Because as irrepressible as he’s always been, age is managing to slow him down. For a Daddy’s girl like me that is sad and alarming, but nothing could have shocked and dismayed me more than when my dad announced his traveling days were over.
When other kids got money for computers or cars, we got money to travel. My dad had few, if any, parenting rules. But along with “sleep with your windows open” and “never wear socks to bed,” were “go away to college” and “take your junior year abroad.”
When all my friends were rising in the business world, becoming vice-presidents of this and CFOs of that, I was traveling the world. I don’t think I could have done anything to make my father prouder.
Once, when I was in Africa, and scheduled to meet up with my parents in Kenya, I called home to find no one there. Instead of going to Africa, my father had taken everyone—his mom, his mother-in-law, his kids, their husbands and wives and his grandchildren—to Hawaii.
Seems he’d been fired in a corporate regime change and in a response typical of my father, he took everyone on vacation.
When I caught up with him and pointed out this might not be wise since he was now facing unemployment, he responded, “Jame, if you can’t celebrate the bad times how are you going to enjoy the good?”
So last year I followed my father’s example.
I took my family—my parents, siblings, nieces, husband, and daughter—to see giraffes play and watch cheetahs run. No, we didn’t go to Kenya; my dad could no longer make that kind of journey. Instead, we went to Safari West in Sonoma, California, just two hours away from my parents’ home.
Yes, we marveled at the animals and took in the bird life. We bedded down in safari tents and took dinner in an African-style dining hall. But that’s not really why we were there. We went on safari in California’s wine country to spend quality time.
Because, as the wisest man I know once said, “If you can’t celebrate the bad times how are you going to enjoy the good?”
By Jamie Simons for PeterGreenberg.com.
*Ataatak is Eskimo for father.
Read the post that started the Grateful Traveler series:
You can see all of the articles from the Grateful Traveler series in our Personal Travel Journals section.