When I was a child, I was thrilled by the story of a prince who owned a flying carpet. Having a carpet of my own to take me wherever I wished was at the top of the three wishes I knew I’d be granted if I were ever lucky enough to meet a genie. This would make running away, another cherished childhood ambition, a cinch. I’d hop onto my scrap of Persian rug and it would whisk me off to my grandmother in New York City.

This was only my starting point. That same grandmother had sent me two books of black and white photos, one that dimly revealed the wonders of the United States and another that showed the great cities of the world. I ignored the pictures of America’s natural wonders; living in Alaska had made me indifferent to the spectacles of mountains and forests. But I pored over the capitols of the world as if I were looking at the Sears & Roebuck christmas catalog. I wanted them all.

In my seventies I still do. Thirty years ago I found that a budget-priced one-way ticket was within my financial grasp and from that time on, I was either planning a trip or recovering from jet lag. But in those years I still thought my time was infinite. I wasted it by returning to places I loved. I became the greediest sort of traveler, the one who wants to understand the places she sees, absorbing them through her pores. True to my childhood yearnings, I still wanted it all, on my own terms.

Last night I began to binge-watch Station Eleven; the most horrifying part for me was when travelers are stuck in an airport with no flights to be had. It felt like a metaphor that captured the past two years. For me and millions of others, 2022 threatens to become our third year without travel.

Being stranded in one city is a lot like being stuck in a one-room cabin during the depths of a sub-zero Alaskan winter. Once again that magic carpet has become my prevailing wish, although it would be in the form of a seat in economy class. And this time I wouldn’t be prodigal with my travel allowance. 

There are so many places I have yet to see. I want to get lost in the narrow streets of a Moroccan city, wander through the desert on the outskirts of Cairo, see the Khmer treasures at the Musee Guimet and then leave Paris to stand on the bluffs that Monet painted in Brittany. I want to watch the Atlantic during a storm on a windy beach in Donegal, buy books in a London shop, and drink coffee in a Rwanda market. I want to meet a young girl in Turin, the child of a man I still love ten years after his death. 

Of course I’d visit friends in cities I’ve already explored but fleetingly. I’ve changed. Those cities have changed. What I’m hungry for is the shock and delight that comes from seeing a place I’ve never been before, waking up to the sounds of a different language and launching the day with flavors that have never touched my tongue. If there’s a Fountain of Youth anywhere, that would be it. That’s life. At least it’s my life.