A few weeks ago, I touched on the topic of why I travel as much as do. And while I try to live everyday as if there is no tomorrow, it got me to thinking, so I did some digging. As it turns out I have a long line of travelers in my family. There are two people I would like to highlight that have influenced me to travel. This week, I will be focusing on the man I love, but wish I had gotten to know better.
My grandpa was an avid motorcycle rider and traveled all around the country on his bike. In the summer of 2010, he was headed out west to California, and my immediate family was headed out to Utah; our trips would intersect as we returned home and he headed out west. We saw him for the last time in Iowa, he was heading west, and we were headed east. In literally a blink of the eye, we saw each other one last time. I never imagined that he wouldn’t make it home. In the mountains of northern California, he was in a motorcycle accident. My Grandpa, the strong former marine with the don’t-mess-with-me attitude, was airlifted to a nearby hospital. There he suffered a stroke from the complications of the accident, knowing that he would never have quality of life, my family made the impossible decision. He passed away overlooking the mountains of Redding, California, July 29. While most people would say it was tragedy, I did my best to make sense of it. I was heartbroken; I was entering my senior of high school, and he would never see me walk across the stage, attend college, see me get married and have a family. I tore my hair out trying to make sense of it all, but then it hit me. He died doing something he absolutely loved. It brought peace to the pain I felt, and still feel.
As I travel now, I understand why he did what he did. I also understand the peace of knowing that if I happen to not make it back from any of my travels that I was doing something I loved. It is what gives us life, and even though my grandpa died while traveling, it GAVE him life. He would come back with stories and photos to share; he even brought me money from Mexico for a class project I had in 3rd grade, which I still have.
I moved into his house a few years ago, and I started to look through his belongings he left behind. I found 15 photo albums full of pictures from his adventures, and each one he is smiling. He loved to travel, and influenced me to never listen to someone who tells you can’t do something (except him, his word stood strong). Every time I hop on a plane or get in the car for another trip, I make sure to look up to the sky. Sometimes I will say a little something to him, and sometimes it’s an unspoken feeling of safety. I know that I have a hardcore, motorcycle-riding, former marine angel watching over his only granddaughter. As I take off on a new trip today, I would like to say Happy Birthday to the man that influenced who I am today.