Lesson 1: The first passport stamp: where it all began

This is the first story because this is the day it all began.  On 01/26/93 I got my first passport stamp in London Gatwick.  When I heard the sound of the rubber stamp ink my blue page I didn’t have any idea how addicted to that sound I would become.  Thirty years later, I still smile when I hear that sound.

While the English are credited with getting me addicted to border crossing, I have to credit the French for getting me across the sea.  You see, I didn’t grow up in a family that travelled internationally.  I grew up in a family that mostly traveled to Florida for holidays. Twice every year.

My grandparents came from Italy and they traveled to their homeland numerous times when I was growing up.  I’d seen their slide shows as a child- but I’d never dreamed it would be a place I’d go.  In sixth grade my social studies teacher showed us slides of his trip to Egypt.  I always thought it was fascinating, but I’d also never even dreamed that someday I’d take my own photos of the Pyramids.

And then one day I started to study French.

To this day my French n’est pas bon. It’s a language I’ve never mastered, but oddly, one that pushed me into the world where I learned that I can manage fine despite language barriers.

I remember three things about high school French.  1. I used the name Danielle because is it my middle name and sounds more French than Stephanie.  2.  My teacher was short and very passionate.  She’d hop around and chant “ici, la, la bas”.  Oddly, those are three of the only words I remember.  3.  Our book cover had a picture of Mont Saint Michel and I decided that one day before I died I wanted to go see it for myself in France.

I finished high school without mastering French and enrolled in some more French for my obligatory two years of university foreign language.  My French still wasn’t great, but apparently it was good enough that this girl named Lisa decided that I should be her study partner.  While Le Francais itself didn’t really change my life per se, meeting Lisa, did. She came from a family that traveled, and convinced me that I should do semester abroad in the UK.  She gave me the push and permission that I was looking for to see France and to see the world.  Thanks Lisa. (And thanks to Lisa’s dad who taught me how to use my airline miles).

And so on 01/26/93, Lisa and I westood together in the immigration line waiting for those fateful passport stamps. Little did I know that we’d be standing in the same line in another dozen countries that year  (including France) and that more than 100++ countries later I’d still be standing in those lines all around the globe.

My 01/26/93 was a long time ago but the lesson I learned is this: it’s never to late to make today the day that changes your future.

What are you doing today ?