Travel has the power to embed lifelong memories, whether you’re returning to a favorite destination, exploring a new city or at home day-dreaming of your next adventure. But as a young kid, I did not like travel. Being dragged through cookie-cutter offices around the world for my father’s business trips did not evoke feelings of wanderlust. I would sit on a cold, white-tiled floor, playing with my toy truck, while my dad would meet with identical men clad in identical suits inside glass-windowed conference rooms for what seemed like a millennium. Regardless of the city, the white tiles and glass remained the same; the secretary parroted the same greeting; and the men in suits stopped to compliment the same toy truck. At the end of the day, we would go back to our hotel, where I would throw myself onto a bed so big, I could fit ten times over. My dad would then order us an abundant buffet of room service food. These little pleasures were the only reason I didn’t handcuff myself to our living room table every time my dad announced a new trip.
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As I became a teenager, the travel continued, but my feelings about it began to transform. I became a master of looking as disinterested as humanly possible while I slumped in uncomfortable lobby chairs, reading the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Now, however, my dad and I would explore the cities we were in, such as Zurich, London, Paris, Munich and Madrid. My dad had a knack for finding these quaint and authentic restaurants where we would enjoy local dishes, surrounded by the sound of the country’s language. As my dad and I traveled together, my uncultured taste buds became accustomed to a wide range of international cuisines.
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With each passing year, the trips became less about sitting in office buildings and more about experiencing these cities’ hidden gems. While my dad was trapped in meetings during the day, I was out scouting the best places for us to eat that night. My perspective on travel started to shift from something I was obligated to do to something I wanted to do. Every trip became an opportunity to discover the secrets of each city—my very own international treasure hunt. I found myself counting down the days before our departure dates.
The night before my 21st birthday, my dad passed away suddenly while I was away at college. We had a trip planned for the following week to Zurich, one of our favorite cities. I decided to honor my father’s memory and travel to Zurich by myself. Although I had no expectations or excitement for the trip, I found myself sitting in the back of a plane headed for Switzerland.
After checking into my hotel, I headed straight into the city. I walked across the small bridges spanning the Limmat River, spotted the financial crowd leaving their offices and finally sat down at a small café. Although I expected tears, I found a smile creeping across my face. I looked around at the city that my dad and I had visited for the past 14 years and fondly remembered our adventures. Even without him by my side, the memories we had created during our travels had remained intact, strengthening with each passing year. This realization came with me back to New York and has stayed with me every day since.
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What makes travel so special is its ability to adapt. Each year my travels with my dad were different, evolving to suit our needs and desires. Sometimes a trip fulfills our expectations and other times it can surprise us with experiences we didn’t know we needed. And when we open ourselves up beyond our comfort zones, we allow life-changing experiences to find and transform us.
Cameron McMillan is the Insider Trips Assistant at Indagare.
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