A challenge from Dad

“You seriously want to do this all summer?” my dad asked, bewildered.

I had just shown him a promotional video of the programs offered by Amigos de las Americas, an organization that sends high school and college students to Latin America for a six- to eight-week service-oriented trip each summer. The students who go live with a host family, immerse themselves in a rural community, teach classes or workshops to students, and develop a service project based on the needs of their community.

“Yes, Dad,” I said earnestly. “Please? I want to go so bad!”

I don’t remember much else except that he eventually gave in and that’s how I found myself spending six weeks in La Paz, Honduras, the summer before my sophomore year of high school. It was life-changing.

A few years later, during my sophomore year of college, my best friend, Sami, and I concocted the idea to spend New Year’s in another country. We loved experiencing new places and just decided to go for it. We threw out several options — Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua — all of which my Dad said no to. As an insurance agent, he assessed risk for a living. He went so far as to email us a risk chart of every country in the world explaining which ones were safest and which ones weren’t, giving us very strict guidelines for where he would permit us to go.

We found $800 round trip flights to Budapest, Hungary a few weeks later. I texted my Dad asking for his blessing. He gave it, and a few seconds later, the purchase was made. He texted back, again, bewildered.

Wow. You don’t let the grass grow under your feet!

And that’s how we wound up spending a New Year’s in Hungary and Austria, sight-seeing, spending too much time at bars, and experiencing another culture to start 2015.

Sami and I in Budapest.

“I bet you’ll go to 30 countries by the time you’re 30,” my Dad told me shortly after this trip.

I saw that as a challenge that I not only needed to, but wanted to achieve.

When I told him about me and Sami’s plans for taking a backpacking trip after graduation, he was not initially on board. He had the same bewildered response he’d had to every other crazy travel dream I’d brought up to him.

Dad in Park City, Utah, in 1994 (before the greatest joy of his life was born, me).

It’s not that I needed his permission — by this point, I was an adult, paying my own way. I just wanted his blessing.

I first mentioned the backpacking trip in high school. And that’s when I learned an important lesson: Time is a good thing. I think the main reason my Dad came around to the idea was because I talked about it so frequently. He gave me his blessing because he eventually just got used to the idea.

So when I travel this summer, part of me wants it to be for my dad. In memory of him. In respect of him and the blessing he kind of gave me. In response to the challenge he gave me.

I can just picture the look in his eye if he were here and I brought it up: “Hey, Dad. How about 30 countries by the time I’m 22?”

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