An Open Letter to My Dad
If mom is the one who fueled the fire when it came to my love of travel, you were the one who sparked it in the first place. There has never been any doubt as to where I got my sense of adventure from: you.
I remember for your birthday one year I scoured the travel section at Barnes and Noble until I came across the perfect book: Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World. It was a huge book, full of glossy photos and a profile of each country. You and I would pour over its pages and talk about the places we wanted to see. I was thirteen. That book stills sits in the living room and the last time I flipped through it, the binding was worn and the pages were loose. We have always dreamed together when it comes to travel.
There are so many other similarities that we share: a love for reading, a desire to understand different cultures and people, a passion for current issues. But most of all, that incessant need to explore, dream, and discover.
I was thinking about these similarities when you and I sat down to breakfast this morning. Mom was still sleeping and Emily was putting Mila down for a nap. Our conversation over coffee, french toast, and eggs looked something like this (I wish I could replicate your cute Filipino accent in this letter, but this will have to do):
“If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” I asked.
“I’d like to go back to Europe. Or maybe Israel,” you answered.
“I’d want to go to the Maldives. It’s supposed to be one of the best diving spots in the world.”
“The Maldives? You have to cross the Indian Ocean to do that. It’s very far.”
Then I realized that I didn’t actually know where the Maldives were. I pulled it up, you put your reading glasses on, and we looked at the Google map together as we rattled off places around the Maldives that would also be really cool to visit (“It’s kind of close to Singapore… maybe I could fly from Singapore to the Maldives? Or from Indonesia?”).
With the mention of Indonesia, you launched into a story about how you had lived in the middle of the jungle in Indonesia for three years as a physician for Exxon. I had known pieces of this story, but as the full story unraveled -- from your interview with Exxon to being given a taxidermied Siberian tiger as a gift from the villagers -- I desperately wanted to find a pen so I could start jotting down your life story on a napkin. So many of your stories have inspired me to build a similar life for myself, full of adventure and alongside someone I love.
I remember when I was really young, I asked you what country you wanted to visit before you died (morbid, I know, but I still asked). You said Paris. Eight years later, you and I were standing atop the Eiffel Tower. That same night, we watched it light up beneath the night sky. We backpacked Florence, Paris, Barcelona, and Rome together. You walked all the same steps I did, never tiring. We wandered through the Notre Dame Cathedral. We ate all the fresh pasta imaginable in Cinque Terre. We rode trains that took us past the Italian countryside. It was a stunning trip from start to finish.
One of my favorite memories from this trip was when I met you in the Barcelona airport to begin our backpacking adventure. We stopped for a moment so you could rearrange some of your luggage. You unzipped the top pocket of your suitcase and pulled it open: six, king-sized, dark chocolate Hershey’s bars were neatly arranged, nestled amongst your socks. If anything, my memories of you are of your love for Mom, travel, and Hershey’s chocolate.
When I asked questions about the world, you encouraged me to dig a little deeper. When I shared news about a trip I had in mind, you pulled out an atlas. When I wanted to see where you grew up, you took me to the Philippines. When I worried about not making enough money as a teacher, you told me that only happiness mattered. When I asked you how old you were on your birthday, you said that you only count your blessings.
I am blessed that so much of who I am is because of you. I am blessed to want to travel to these far-flung places and never have to explain why. You just understand, because you harbor the same sense of adventure. And while I certainly got my love of talking from mom, you are always in the passenger seat when she comes to pick me up from the airport. You patiently listen to each of my stories, from the places I explored to the people I met (even if you can't always understand me because I talk too fast).
As much as I love writing, it is hard for me to put into words what your support has meant to me. This letter is my attempt to do that, but I feel like it still falls short. I just want you to know that for all the places I’ve been and all the adventures I’ve had, my most treasured travel moments are when I’ve been with you, discovering the very places we dreamed about when I was a child. Those are the memories that I keep close to my heart. I am blessed to be your daughter.
I love you.