When are you free?

I first started traveling when I was 2. We were living in Germany on a teaching exchange, and summers and holidays were spent exploring the nearby countries, all literally a hop, skip and a jump away. So at 2, I had my first taste of a foreign country, one with exotic tastes, sounds and languages. I remember watching some children playing in an alley, dark hair and skin, staring at my white head of hair, eventually getting up the nerve to come over and feel it with hesitating hands and big smiles. That was my first memory of Turkey. I think. I remember eating a pretzel at a carnival. There was a parade and everyone was wearing elaborate masks and costumes. I was horrified when they "kidnapped" my mother and put her in a wooden cage. That was my first Octoberfest. Years later, driving through a windy, mountain road in Guatemala, we passed some villagers, wearing beautiful woven dress and bare feet, laden with wood for their fires. We pulled over and offered some food. I remember huge smiles of white teeth against dark skin, cookies in their pockets and overflowing in their arms. I remember their gratitude.
I remember a million different markets, where we experienced the heart of the city and its people. I remember hiking active volcanoes, through jungles and deserts, over mountains and behind waterfalls. I explored at least a dozen countries before I was 10, having countless amazing experiences that have ultimately shaped who I am today. For this I can thank my parents. Through these travels they showed me gratitude, respect, appreciation, awareness, love and courage in a way that just can’t be taught in schools.
Later in life, when I began to choose where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do… I found that I still sought out those windy roads and alleys. Even now, I yearn for an adventure. I crave new tastes and sights. My heart jumps just at the idea of turning a corner I’ve never been, driving a road I’ve never driven. I love the rugged, I love the refined, but mostly, I love the real. It is in those moments, of exploration, of sharing, of experiencing a culture and its people, of the unknown… where I feel free.