Saturday, June 22, 2013


Today is my 45th birthday. I'm excited and very grateful to have made it this far. Hopefully this gig can go on a little bit longer and I can continue to do the things in life I love with the people I love while staying healthy and happy most of the time. I know I am so fortunate in so many ways. I don't take any of this for granted.

Of all the wonderful things in my life, I am most thankful for my parents and everything they instilled in me and my sister. It is because of them more than anything that I am the way I am today; I know they have had a much greater influence over the person I am than any other people or any other event in my life. Among the ways my parents have shaped me, one of the true debts of gratitude I owe them is my love of travel.

Since I was brought into this world, my parents made a point of taking me and my sister on vacation every year. From our home in England they took us to Spain, Portugal, France and all over the island of Great Britain. After we moved to the United States in 1979, we continued to explore our new home and land that I have come to love so much, including venturing north to Canada and south to the Caribbean. With my parents I've sat on beaches, conquered castles, seen wonders of nature, explored museums and so much more.

Spain, 1969: My first trip ever. On the beach with my dad.
I stopped traveling for a while when I went to college but as soon as I graduated in early 1994, I vowed to make travel a part of my life again and I was determined to take at least one trip a year where I got on a plane and went somewhere new; hopefully far away from where I lived, if for no other reason than to just get away. In the last 20 years, I've explored most of the United States, having now made it to 41 of the lower 48 states, in addition to visiting Finland, Paris, Belgium, the Netherlands and re-exploring Great Britain twice.

I first traveled as an adult with a chip on my shoulder, seeking out all the great works of architecture I had learned about in school but which I had missed when I decided not to study abroad in graduate school. Later, as I matured and my interests broadened and developed, I started exploring our planet with a different purpose. My first non-architecture trip was to Tennessee and Kentucky to find great music in Memphis and Nashville and learn more about bourbon. Maybe not the most noble of goals but it made me happy and since then I've taken a number of trips that have not been architectural pilgrimages.

I generally have a really good memory that serves me well in life. Throughout all the trips I've taken, I can remember a lot of what I've seen. But I can't remember all of it very well and some stuff I've just plain forgotten for whatever reason. Some of the things I've forgotten are small. I'd love to be able to recall the whole conversation my friend Mike and I had with a Scottish electrician over rusty nails in an Edinburgh pub halfway up a massive set of steps. I remember he tried to hook one (or maybe both) of us up with his daughter (he didn't like her boyfriend) but little else.

Other memories that have faded are more significant and I wish I still had them. I remember virtually nothing about flying into the Grand Canyon in what I think was a six seat plane. I can recall going over the rim and watching the ground fall away but I've lost everything after that. I'd love to remember the house we stayed in one summer in France that my mother swears was haunted or cursed in some way or the name of the bar in Mexico where I had the second best fish tacos in my life (Larry's are still the best) while sipping Pacificos right on the edge of the sea. I'm convinced writing my experiences down as they happened or taking more pictures would have helped my memory. Unfortunately I can't go back.

For all the worldliness I sometimes think I have, I realize I have explored only a small fraction of the globe and my journeys are remarkably well concentrated. There are seven continents on this planet and I've only been to two of them. While I've been to Europe several times, all my travel is in western Europe. And even though I've covered most of the United States, I haven't even considered setting foot in the newest two states of Alaska and Hawaii. I've been safe and cautious and sheltered.

So I think it's time to travel more and I think it's time to do it before I get too set in my ways to venture further afield. I also think it's time for me to put it out there for everyone to read to hold myself accountable to the world to fulfill this mission. And so here's my commitment to myself: by the time I am 50, I need to have a lot more of the world under my belt. I need to have visited at least two more continents, have been to one or both of Alaska and Hawaii and filled in the gaps in Europe and the United States that I've been saying I should visit but never have. That means I finally need to stop saying I'm going to Barcelona and go. No more procrastinating.

And along the way, I intend to take pictures and write about what I have seen so I can remember which breweries I visited in Bruges or exactly what I talked about with that guy in that bar in Santa Fe that I know I thought was so strange but I cannot articulate anything about our conversation. It all starts next week. Bon voyage! To me.

About a half hour into Yellowstone National Park with my friend Bryan in 2011, hoping to God the bison behind us doesn't charge even though it's not even looking at us. My last great trip. To date.

1 comment:

  1. I love this plan - can't wait to read about where the next five years takes you. (So much more interesting than basketball...)

    Envious that you've been to 41 states - funny that you mentioned Hawaii because after visiting, Larry and I both commented "Jonathan would have no use for Hawaii."

    Two enthusiastic thumbs up for Barcelona - still my favorite city in the world. (Though my view of it now might differ from how I felt about it at 21. Would go back in heartbeat to find out!)