As an 8-year-old child, I remember lying awake the entire night, overwhelmed with excitement, on the eve of our family vacation.We were leaving from our home in Maryland to spend 5 weeks driving across the U. S. to California and back.My glorious visions of adventure that night chased my sleepiness away.


During my junior high school years, my father, a Presbyterian minister, dreamed out loud about trading churches with a minister in another country, and moving our family to faraway places.Once it was Scotland; another time Khartoum, and a third time it was Turkey. Each time I flew to his side, brimming with curiosity over the wondrous details of the exotic place that could soon become our home.We never went.


In high school, I begged my parents to let me enter an exchange program to travel and live in another country.We had recently bid farewell to an extraordinary, bubbly Australian girl who had been an exchange student in our home for a year. I glimpsed faraway Australia through the stories she shared, and I envied her American adventure.My parents dissuaded me from enrolling in the exchange program, suggesting I wait until I was older and more mature.

In my junior year of college, my adventure finally began.  Since Spanish was the language I had learned in school, my choices in the Junior Year Abroad program were Madrid, Spain and Bogota, Colombia.It was an easy choice.  Madrid was civilized, cosmopolitan and cultured.  Bogota was third world, wild and unknown.


Thirty years later, I still believe the nine months I lived in Bogota were the most favorite months of my life.Beginning with the glorious sunny afternoon I first touched its foreignness, I was enveloped in a passion for the new world that surrounded me - absorbing the brisk, strong sounds of Spanish, inhaling the pungent street smells, tasting odd new flavors, and struggling to understand the thoughts and habits of new family and friends from another culture. My world expanded three times over that year, and I knew I would never be the same.Nine months later, when I boarded the plane to return home, my tears were not of happiness for returning to the U. S. - but of desperation for the eternity before I could return again to my beloved Colombia.


From then on I was hooked.(Well, maybe I’ve been hooked all my life, but that’s when I knew it for sure.) 

When my husband and I first married, we made a pact that after he finished his engineering degree, he would work in the U.S. for three years.  Following those years of establishing himself as an engineer, he would find a position with a company that would provide a series of international assignments.We wanted to live 2 or 3 years in each country – long enough to learn the language and culture well, then move on to the next assignment and next country.For sad but private reasons, that didn’t happen.


Nevertheless, I’ve had a terrific life since I left Bogota . . . a good education, a fulfilling marriage, two wonderful kids, numerous loyal and caring friends, and several demanding and rewarding careers, interspersed with occasional trips abroad.


But I didn’t know the allure would never go away.  The rush of euphoria upon arrival in a new place is as strong now as when I was nineteen, headed for my first experience in Colombia. The best day is the day you arrive, bursting with the expectation of adventures that await you.The worst day is the last, when you leave behind the magical moments that could have been. No trip has ever been long enough.


I didn’t know that it would matter so much - that, even in the wildest moments of happiness, that craving would find me and beg me to be gone; that it would rifle through my careful plans, and leave them in unholy disarray; that a beautiful, haunting melody would follow me everywhere, luring me to somewhere far away.I didn’t know that no matter how much warmth I built into my home, it could not hold my heart.


My life is overflowing with responsible choices I have made.  They were good choices,  they have given me much pleasure, and they have led to adventures of another kind.That having been said, it is time to start over.This time I’ll make choices of the heart – choices that will take me to Scotland, Khartoum, Turkey, Australia, their neighboring countries and their neighbors’ neighbors.  This time I won’t return until the adventure is over – and if the adventure doesn’t end,  there’ll be a quiet, growing smile of satisfaction, and the absolute sureness that I’m finally, finally where I belong.



September 1999