Twenty-nine years ago, my parents took me to EPCOT for the first time and I fell in love with the concept of world travel. Entering the world pavilions, my parents bought me a Disney passport and the future course of my life snapped into place. Getting the passport stamped, as we walked from one country to another, was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. At ten, I had never traveled internationally, so EPCOT was my first taste of the exotic – worlds and cultures different than my own. Though the pavilions themselves were small, they connected me to an international community I barely knew existed. I remember watching the movie about
and being enthralled – wanting someday to see the splendor revealed on the screen.
We entered China Italy and , the
countries of my ancestors and as my parents bought me flags from each of those
countries, I decided then and there that some day I’d have to visit my
ancestral lands for real. The buildings in Germany Japan
were so different than any in my own country that I knew someday I’d have to go
and see if all of Japan
looked the same as Disney . At night, exhausted, as we headed back to our
hotel, I remember looking at my passport cluttered with stamps and thinking,
someday I’m going to have a real passport and when I do, that too will be
cluttered with stamps of all the countries I’m going to see. A dream, perhaps –
the farcical scheme of a mere child. But dreams really do come true, if you
believe in them and pursue them relentlessly.
When I graduated college, I applied for my first real passport, headed off to
year to teach English and at the end of just sixteen months I had stamps from
seven countries in my passport. But I
didn’t stop there. True to my childhood dream, I traveled so much on that first
passport that I eventually had to have pages added to it. At thirty-nine, I
knew the world and stepping into the world pavilion section of EPCOT, I was struck
by how small it seemed. I remembered the countries being bigger, but time is
often guilty of altering one’s memories.
Glancing down at the EPCOT map in my hands, I counted the countries – an
inventory of which ones Disney included. As I tallied them up, I realized that
I kept good on the promise my ten-year-old self had made. Of the eleven
countries in EPCOT, I had traveled to ten of them – some for as little as a few
days, others for a long as a month. Norway, alone remains unvisited, a reminder
that I’m not yet done, that though I haven’t been able to travel in the last
five years the world still beckons, imploring me to venture beyond the boarders
of my home, seeking adventures elsewhere - everywhere. Korea
EPCOT had made such a lasting impact on my life, that when my parents decided to take my son to Disney this summer, I couldn’t wait to walk through the pavilions with him. Even though he is only four, I had hoped that all the international folktales I have read to him would have laid a foundation for an interest in exploring the world on a miniature stage, but as usual, my mother was right. Four is just too young. Where I had found inspiration, my son encountered boredom.
As soon as we arrived, my parents bought my son a Disney passport. Though they are different now, including stickers as well as stamps, I was as excited seeing him with his as I had been with my own oh so long ago. Since my son loves stickers, we were off to an impressively strong start. Enthusiastically, he affixed the stickers for
, our first stop. Mexico – the ride - made an awesome
impression on my son. He loves Donald
Duck, and the video that played throughout the duration of the ride held his
interest, kept him laughing and left him demanding another trip. We rode the ride a second time, and then
headed off to Mexico
where his excitement rapidly began to dwindle.
There the ride frightened him.
Next came Norway ,
and within the first three minutes of the movie he demanded to leave. A virtual trip through the country held no
interest for him. After China , we
breezed through the rest of the countries, stopping only long enough to snap a
few photos and stamp the passport. For
my son, EPCOT was not much more than a place to walk through, a place to be
endured. At least until it was time to
leave. A storm had passed over while we
were eating dinner, but it didn’t last very long. When we stepped back outside, the ground was
soaked but lingering in the sky was a rainbow.
For months my son had been saying he wanted to see a real rainbow and
now, thanks to the magic of Disney (or Mother Nature, if you prefer) he finally