40 Years of Overseas Travel

Laguna del Inca, Portillo, Chile, August 1970

Regular readers know that milestones are important to me (like last year’s quarter-century in the airline business). Today marks another. On July 29, 1970, I embarked on my first overseas trip, a two-week journey to Lima, Peru; Santiago and Portillo, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A quick look mainly at big cities. I can clearly remember some cool experiences. Two come quickly to mind: one was awesome skiing in the Andes. Portillo had gotten so much snow that the road was closed, and we reached the resort by chairlift and skis (toting my big suitcase between my skis, down a steep hill, was a challenge). A second was sitting on a park bench in Buenos Aires and quietly discussing politics, en Español, with fellow university students. The awful military government still gripped Argentina, so we needed to be careful, but what was memorable was that I was nearly fluent in their language.

Many of my travel ways and habits began back then. A love of public transport as a cheaper and more local way to get around. A willingness, no, a zeal to talk to strangers (I hitchhiked from Portillo back to Santiago; I think my ride was a lawyer). An interest in simple, typical places to eat. And above all, a respect for the places and cultures who kindly received me.

Two nights ago, flying home from Miami, as we descended toward DFW I thought about this milestone. I turned on my iPhone and scrolled through pictures from summer journeys going back to 2006. It was such fun to see dozens of places all over the world. I was smiling broadly. And I thought, “I’m the luckiest person on this whole plane.”

Mobility is such a gift.

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