Friday, December 2, 2011

Have Guts - Will Travel


Just as I’ve made great changes over the years in how I feel about football, I have also changed my thoughts about flying and traveling.  While I always loved the idea of traveling, I was so afraid of flying that I preferred to keep my feet on the ground and to limit my travels to those that could be reached via cars, buses and trains.  At one point during my banking career, I had been promoted to the newly created position of compliance officer for the bank’s trust department.  The department head wanted me to visit a couple of other banks that had established compliance departments to see how they functioned.  The problem was, the other banks were in San Francisco.  When my boss called me into his office to discuss the pending trip, I explained that I didn’t fly.  He responded, “Well, what the hell do you think you’re going to do?  Take the train?”  That’s exactly what I did.

I did fly occasionally, but I never enjoyed it and with each flight I was convinced that I would die.  I envied friends who could hop on a plane as if they were getting into their car.  I knew the statistics about the safety of air travel.  I knew that my horizons would expand if only I’d fly, but it was so uncomfortable for me that I avoided it whenever possible.  Then, fourteen years ago, my oldest son and I flew to Korea to pick up my youngest son – the same son who is sitting beside me on the plane right now as we head back to Korea.

That first trip to Korea was eye opening for me.  The differences in culture, food, art, lifestyle were so surprising to me that I knew I wanted to experience more and I knew I’d have to fly to make that happen.  My ease with flying didn’t happen overnight, but I eventually realized that I no longer walked onto the plane expecting to crash.  My stomach no longer turned in knots as the hour of takeoff approached.  If someone said, “Let’s travel,” I found myself ready to hop on board.

And now, several years and many trips later, I have attained the ultimate “I’m a traveler” feat.  I have gone from needing to check two fully loaded, to within ounces of their weight limit, suitcases to packing for this trip in the one, now allowed, checked bag and that bag weighed in seven pounds under the limit.  I know that’s still not the same as those who travel with nothing more than a duffel bag on their back, but for me, the transition from not flying to flying and now being able to pack efficiently and lightly makes me feel like I am truly an experienced traveler.