Michèle and I could not possibly come from more different backgrounds. I grew up a few hundred yards from the Bronx border in New York. We moved only once, from a 5 flight walk up to a 2 flight walk up, and less than a mile away.
Michèle was born across the globe in Ipoh, Malaysia. When her family moved, they crossed time zones and hemispheres. She ended up living in 6 countries, and half a dozen cities before she could read or write. (*Note: She also had dislexia, so it took her a while anyway.)
So how did we end up together? Probably a question we have been asked by everyone who has ever met us ever.
When I was a toddler, my urge to explore was so strong that whenever my parents took me out of the house, they had to strap me to a leash. I wanted to break free of that leash (aka – a cursed metaphor for the confines of modern life) and conquer the world.
Both of my parents were first generation American, so I was basically raised as an American. The only international exposure I experienced while growing up was from eating at the nearby Blimpie’s. It was run by Indians, the real ones from India with turbans and lots of gods.
The older I got, the more I dreamed about traveling the world. Unfortunately, my father insisted that traveling overseas was a waste of time. He was a World War Two veteran who served in the Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific campaigns. He was adamant that Europe and Asia were still in ruins 45 years after the war had ended.
This is a photo that my father took during the war, so it’s no wonder!
In college I met a girl named Michèle. She was French and had a weird accent thingy in her name. (When I type her name, I have to hit 3 keys just for the è.) Did you ever?
Michèle was born in Malaysia, grew up in Thailand, Singapore, Uganda and Kenya and spent summers with family throughout France. Michèle was immersed in international cultures throughout her childhood. American’s were as strange to her as the Indians that ran the Blimpie’s were to me.
In college, Michèle and I became quick friends and art collaborators and hung out quite a bit. I was awestruck listening to all the adventures shared by her family and the constant stream of international friends visiting from every corner of the world. One day, while disclosing my plan to backpack around Europe after college, I asked Michèle if there was even a point in going, since it’s all still in ruins from the war. She thought I was insane.
A few weeks before I was suppose to embark on my 3-month endless summer European tour, my travel buddy backed out. Luckily, Michèle was planning to spend time with her family in France and we made a plan to meet up.
That trip change my life and ignited a life-long pursuit of travel adventures. I owed it all to Michèle! And I guess I’m fun to travel with, because a few years later, she married me.
Oh, and as far as the ruins that my father warned me about… Europe had them way before World War Two, so I don’t know what the heck he was talking about.