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My mom (left), touring with her mom (right).


When I was a kid, my mother regaled me with her travel tales – how wearing a black shirt in Italy in 1950 almost landed her in jail; how she wore a custom-made taffeta slip into the Casino at Cannes (she didn’t have an appropriate dress with her), and subsequently met a man who took her on a motorcycle ride through Provence.

And how she went with her mother to Mexico because her father was busy working. I would pore through her photographs, and pepper her with questions about the places she’d been; the adventures she had.

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I promised myself that one day I would travel.

When I went to college, I was lucky to spend six months studying in London. The school planned weekend trips, so I had a chance to visit Cambridge and Bath; Brighton and Oxford. And spring break meant a Eurail pass, and train rides through France, Germany and Italy. It’s buried in storage, but I still have the notebook I bought in Florence where I recorded all my experiences – the musings of a 20 year old on the night train from Naples back to Calais.

When I got my first real job, I saved my money for a three-week trip to Greece. I went with a girlfriend from grade school. We landed in Athens, and took the ferries to Paros, Naxos, Santorini and Mykonos. I stood on the floor of the Parthenon. There was nobody there.

Me at the Parthenon. 1983

That’s me at the Parthenon in 1983.

When I returned in 2000, it was draped in barricade rope, and surrounded by tour buses from every country in the world. Or so it seemed. In 1983 the total cost for that three-week sojourn was $1500. And while everything was certainly cheaper, I was so young,that renting a room with a cot for $7 a night made complete sense.

Since that trip, I have picked a different place to visit every year – but one.

People have bucket lists of things, such as birds to see, or mountains to climb, and triathlons to compete in. But mine is about places I want to visit. Last year was a wash because of the hip (surgery, that is). Having to cancel a trip three weeks prior to departure because of bone-on-bone arthritis was truly a bummer. But reality trumped fantasy. My body would not behave through that pain. So I re-upped for 2013, and will be off to Kalimantan on the Indonesian side of Borneo to see the orangutans on September 25.

I do not know what it will be like. It sounds quite lovely, but I prefer going without any expectations. I want to walk off the plane and have those unknown smells, color and sights descend like a tidal wave.