I have been photographing and writing about my travel experiences for a few years now. Although I have written about my travels in Europe, I have visited many of the United States, too. There are only a few states I have not traveled. As a young man I moved from New York City to Los Angeles by driving across the country and found it a great experience.
I guess I want to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the hill. Even if I was convinced by my dearest friend it wasn’t, I think I would still go at least to the top of the hill to see for myself. I somehow don’t have the same curiosity when things are on my side of the hill. I grew up in the Suburbs of New York City, and as a young adult I lived in Manhattan on the upper Westside. I have lived half my life in the New York City area and the other half in the Los Angeles area. Would you believe I saw the Eiffel Tower up close before I ever visited the Statue of Liberty? I still have not been to the top of the Empire State building, although I passed it almost every day for years. I live in California now but have never been to Yosemite. I have seen the Swiss Alps.
Once on a Bus Tour in Europe, during one of those scheduled stops, a young Swiss woman struck up a conversation by asking me where was my home.. I said, “Los Angeles, in California.”
“Oh, I love California,” she said. “I have been there many times. Have you been to Joshua Tree?”
“You know it’s funny, I haven’t.”
Her questions were coming in rapid succession.
Waves of guilt consumed me. My chin was almost touching my chest. At that moment, I felt I was responsible for every European’s interest in our country, and I was failing.
“You HAVE been to the Grand Canyon?”
In desperation and nearing complete humiliation, I found myself saying: “Well, I have seen it from the air. I was once on an airplane and the captain announced, ‘Those of you on the right side have a magnificent view of the Grand Canyon.’ I was on the right side and it was magnificent.”
Clearly, the look of disbelief on her face told me I had not saved my dignity. I should have left bad enough alone when I blurted out,
“Have I mentioned I have seen the Swiss Alps? You are Swiss, aren’t you?”
That was the last conversation we had.
Perhaps, if it is in front of me, I take it for granted. I imagine I will get around to seeing it. I suppose it is why Europeans don’t get as excited as me about the 1000-year-old Cathedral in their home town or another Michelangelo Statue in their city center. Just writing about this makes me committed to changing my old ways. I plan on seeing Yosemite.There I have it on a list.
Just as soon as I see the Pyramids….
or the Great Wall of China…
or the Taj Mahal…