You Can Take the Boy Out of Italy

I look at these pictures, and I find myself audibly catching my breath. I think of what a trip of this magnitude must mean to someone on the cusp of middle school, for a boy who will soon be learning about all the places he just saw, how much more his social studies, geography, and literature classes are going to mean, of the anchors he will now have.

The world just got bigger and–paradoxically–much smaller.

He will never be the same.


This was not a tour. Not a vacation.

It was an adventure . . . and the beginning of his education.


















Time to Change

“Next week at this time you will be waking up in Florence.”

As in Florence, Italy.

My nearly-ten-year-old son has his first passport in hand and in less than a week will be joining my high school students and me on a week-long tour of Verona, Venice, Florence, and Rome.

Of course, he will also be joined by his beloved grandmother, one of his best friends, his friend’s devoted and wonderful parents, and chaperones that include people he knows and loves.

Not to mention his mother.

DSC_0039But yet he’s nervous.

Very nervous.

And sometimes this surprises people.

I think back to my world when I was nine. It was small—as was the world of many-a-nine-year-old, I suppose. Travel was never an option, and I did not hop on my first plane until I was 24 years old—to England, no less, to study at the University of London.   When people heard about my impending trip, their first words, understandably so, were, “You must be so excited!” My reply could only be—as a responsible young adult with a full-time job—“Of course! I can’t wait!”

But that was not true.

While I was thrilled and grateful for the opportunity, I was nothing short of terrified. The unknown has always given me pause, and this was such a colossal unknown with parts I couldn’t even formulate in the most fertile recesses of my imagination. When I wrote in my journal as the plane took off, my hand trembled. I trembled.

Of course, all’s well that ends well as someone quite famous once quipped. I had one of the most personally and professionally fulfilling experiences of my life. I was a very responsible 24-year-old who learned how very not grown up I actually was.

Travel then became not just a desire but a compulsion. The most profound lessons I have learned in this life have been in places far away from home.

And this is what I want for my children. I would spend my last penny bringing my children to parts unknown because I know—truly know—the benefits, how travel changes the way we see everything, how we transform and grow.

Oscar’s transformation starts this Thursday. Unlike me, he, at only nine, is free to articulate his nervousness. I know once he’s there and the unknown shifts to the magical he will be quite fine.

More than fine.

He will grow.

And I will have a front-row seat.


And Another Door Opens

I was there one strange night in New Jersey when he had to hand over a roll of film to officials after photographing a series of smokestacks that he may or may not have been authorized to photograph.

I have stood by his side in the bracing cold on the streets of New York City so he could get the perfect shot of a doorway or a window or a shadow on the sidewalk.

I have drifted off to sleep at night as he has slipped outside to photograph our own city streets.

I also watched him gently fall into call center work to pay his graduate school bills.

And as he rose through the ranks to program and project manager positions, earning enviable salaries commensurate with his work ethic and smarts, I saw his love of photography move to the proverbial back burner—never leaving his side but relegated to a mere avocation as the demands of work necessarily enveloped him.

And then a layoff.

IMG_4333A recalibration.

A hearty and heartfelt discussion of what is truly important, of what we ought to do with the very short time we are given, of the advice we’d give to our own children in a similar situation.

Remembering the adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I have always known Don Farias was a photographer.

And now he is Don Farias, Photographer.

His business.

His life.

One of his great loves.

Now center stage—his and ours.