As I watched Notre Dame burn this week, while I sat at my office desk, one thing went through my mind - I was so happy that I hadn't waited to go there. I had, in fact, visited Notre Dame twice. And it did not disappoint.
I know that when it comes to travel, I have been so fortunate. I have been to all seven continents and somewhere around 35 countries (I stopped counting after 30). I know most people don't get the opportunity to see as much of the world as I have. I was also lucky to have lived in Europe before the Euro when the dollar was strong, and as a student, I was able to travel to so many countries for very little money. That started my travel obsession, and I've kept on going.
When I was in my twenties, contemplating travel after I had studied abroad, my grandmother said something to me that changed my life. She told me not to wait to travel. She loved travel but had a tumor removed from her spinal cord when she was in her early sixties that left her with lifelong mobility issues. She said that so many people she knew waited to travel until they retired, and they either didn't have the funds or they weren't physically capable of travel by the time they retired. She told me not to wait and to travel now while I could do it.
So, I spent my twenties and early thirties traveling. I made a top ten list first. And when I finished that, I made a secondary bucket list and then a third bucket list.
I've been lucky to see so many amazing things. I once saw Antarctic Orcas while in a zodiac and at the same time within a few hundred yards there was a humpback whale, minke whales, and fin whales. That was just luck. I've seen a volcano active at night and during the day. I've snorkeled with sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, penguins, sharks, rays, countless reef fish and coral. I've seen lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, giraffes, and countless other animals in the wild. (OK, not the cheetahs, but I did get to pet those.)
I've been horseback riding in Scotland. My first top ten item was to go to Monet's villa in Giverny, which I did by myself for my 21st birthday. I've walked on the Great Wall of China. I've climbed the steps of the Roman ruins in Rome. I've been in La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I got to see Big Ben every Tuesday and Thursday when I worked for a member of the British Parliament. I also got to see the U.S. Capitol Building every day when I worked on the Hill. I've been to the top of the Empire State Building. I've learned how to surf in Hawaii. I've sat at the bottom of Machu Picchu after the area closed for the night because my mom got us hotel rooms at the only hotel there, so we could stay later. I've climbed mountains, swam in glacier filled rivers, jumped in the Antarctic Ocean. I've walked on glaciers in my shorts. I've kissed the Blarney Stone.
I could literally write a whole book about each one of my adventures, but at the end of the day, I'm just so glad that I didn't wait. Maybe it took me three months to pay off of that credit card bill. Maybe, I didn't get to do anything fun for a birthday or anniversary, so we'd have the money to take a trip. But, we made it a priority and because of that, I got to see a truly amazing historical and architectural marvel that is now largely in ruins. My heart breaks for the people who waited, for those not fortunate enough to travel, and for those who now will never get to see what I was so very lucky to see.
I, in fact, sit writing this from this amazing view in Key West. Again, I'm so fortunate to have friends with a house here. As I watch my kids paddle boarding and snorkeling in the canal in front of me, I am eternally grateful that we made this family vacation a priority. That my kids can see coral reefs and barracudas. That we can visit Hemingway's House later in the week and other historical landmarks. We will all bond over our adventures. We will remember this trip for a lifetime. And that makes every dollar spent worth more than its face value.
I know not everyone can travel. It's expensive now, so much more so than it was twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. I also know, that it will keep getting more expensive. There are so many more places that I would love to see, but if I died tomorrow, I would die content because as the OneRepublic song goes, "I lived."