Into The Woods

My dad took me on a trailride in Eminence, Missouri. One of my best childhood friends, Julie, and my Uncle Bud went, along with, of course, four horses. We drove down a slight hill with dense trees on both sides until we came to a clearing filled with more pickup trucks and horse trailers than I had ever seen. Horses were everywhere. Everyone wore cowboy boots. For some people, that might seem like everyday life. To me, it was strange yet wonderful.

We ate chow. Not dinner or breakfast, but chow. In the mess hall. Every night was a campfire with some banjo music and dancing. Every day was a lot of horseback riding in beautiful woods along stunning bluffs. Dad let me  ride his horse, Lady, who came from Texas with a trailer load of cattle when Dad was a young teen. She was well-trained and gentle, which was the only thing that gave me solace when the trail led downward in the woods, then took a sharp left turn along the rocky ledge of a bluff. I was certain at least one horse and rider would plummet to their deaths.

I loved riding, but I had never ridden in such a beautiful area for so long. I had never been with so many gorgeous, strong horses. I had never been around so many people who loved their horses.

I give my parents much credit for letting me, even gently pushing me, to try new things, to see that there was a world outside of what I knew, to explore the possibilities. And not just the things they enjoyed. When they asked where I’d most like to go the summer after high school graduation, I said New York City. My dad wasn’t a city guy, but he willingly went. In fact, he insisted on driving us into Manhattan. It wasn’t his favorite place in the world, but to me, it was sort of like riding horses into the beautiful woods years earlier. It was an unexplored world, bursting with possibilities and adventures. I took it one step at a time and enjoyed the unfamiliar scenery. And he and Mom let me.

None of us are going to experience the entire world. In fact, some of us won’t physically travel much at all. Even when money was tight, my parents tried to give me opportunities to see new places, meet new people, and consider new viewpoints. And I am grateful. They let me know there are many ways to see the world: traveling, reading, meeting people, inviting conversation.

One of my favorite quotes hangs on a wall in my house: “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.” (St. Augustine)

Travel today, even if it’s from the comfort of your own home.