I had grabbed the latest issue of Texas Monthly with my left hand, while balancing a freshly made cup of Donut Shop coffee in my right, when the postage paid cards began to fall to the floor. Much like the tree’s leaves in October quickly drifting to their end, below. While most of the falling collateral are the offer of subscription services, one is a personally beloved classic.
Since I was a child, I have always had a call to the world around me. An endless explorer, even now, at 47 years of age, the road trip still holds so much wonder and excitement within me. So, there I was, squinting through my bargain magnifying readers at the flimsy card begging to be returned, with a bevy of adventure selections circled.
When I was a little me, these were a wish-list. A wanderlust lottery card of possibilities.
Why, yes, I do want to see what Billings, Montana looks like! Who wouldn’t?
I distinctly remember policing myself so as to not look too desperate by being sure to leave some number options unselected. While today’s card offers a “faster service option” by going online for the information, I just can’t go that route. That’s not the same.
Back in the day, there was no such internet option. I would send off the postage-paid wish list and pray for their swift returns – as if there was some kind of travel brochure Santa, with elves at the ready, waiting in the wings with picturesque descriptions of Branson.
Weeks would pass and I would check the mail – daily. Like every child with a post office dream in every film you can think of. Instead of decoder rings or college acceptance letters, mine was the receipt of slick-papered magazines telling tales of tours around the contiguous United States. “Drive Route 66!” it would beckon, with all of its kitsch. Wild West Shows to Yellowstone, I poured through them all, paying no mind to the fact that I was a pre-teen and incapable of executing any of these wishes on my own.
But I didn’t care.
I gleefully imagined myself visiting these places in person. I knew it would happen, someday, somehow. Every single photo – the hotel rooms and the shops filled with baubles. The landscapes and tales of the region’s native creatures. Everything looked so clean. So fun. So peaceful.
Where the other kids told tales of wanting a Barbie Dream House or the latest Empire Strikes Back action figure, I was looking out of my bedroom window as if it were my stateroom on a cross-country train through the southwest. Sunset skies, painted in pumpkin and plum, reflecting across terra cotta sands… The Pacific Northwest with its heavy, comforting haze, seeping its way through two-hundred-foot trees…
Visions of everywhere.
There’s something magical about those tangible books, allowing a portable, repeatable visit for the curious. I loved it then and I am the same travel mag junkie, today.
So, naturally, there I was using a ball point pen to manifest a couple of dozen potential destinies. Squinting through the descriptions and being sure to not seem too greedy with my wishes, I selected as much as I felt would be appropriate, all while hoping for their swift return.
“Travel is like an endless university. You never stop learning.”Harvey Lloyd
Stephanie Johnson is a Dallas-based essayist, content creator, photographer and visual artist with a dream to visit every State and National Park humanly possible. A copywriter by day, she has two grown sons and is enjoying each moment possible with her husband and neurotic dog.