Slade, a 15 year old from Southern California, has been to more places than most boys his age; certainly more than I ever did and he started early, at the age of 3. His family brought him to Disney World in Florida and he has gone back every year since. Disney World? Not the first place I would think of to spark an interest in international travel, but take a moment to think about it. Families from all over the world visit and for a three year old, might be the best place to start introducing them to foreign visitors, plane rides, airports, and all things related to travel. For Slade, it wasn’t Space Mountain or "The Teacups" or Mickey Mouse that sparked his interest in travel, it was Epcot and the World Showcase; introducing him to different nations with their customs and unique culinary experiences. Before it became “Frozen” themed, the Norway region was one of the many destinations that intrigued Slade. He has yet to visit the actual Scandinavian country but it is at the top of his list. I wonder if this is how young Indiana Jones started? I know Slade would like the reference since he grew up on 80’s pop culture even though he was born in the new millennium.
After many years of Disney World visits and dreaming of traveling far and wide, at age 11, Slade finally got his wish to travel outside the U.S. to our Northern friends in Canada. From Montreal to Toronto to Ontario, he glimpsed a larger world. In Ontario, home of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Slade (a hockey player himself) was able to touch the Stanley Cup. Since Canada, the travel bug really bit him hard which broadened his interest in traveling further.
For Slade, it really is about the friends you keep, especially when you make friends from other countries and cultures. Besides hockey, he also plays basketball which introduced him to two friends, one French, and one’s whose father worked for Toyota. So where do you think he ends up going next? Sure enough, he gets invited to visit his friends' families and winds up in France and Japan (Makes me wish I played more sports as a kid). As a 12-year-old in Paris, he had mixed feelings about his first visit due to the culture clash and language barriers. For someone so young, the French can seem a little harsh to outsiders. However, Slade would like to return since there is so much more history to the country and he is that type of inquisitive kid where he looks forward to what he can learn next.
Soon after, it was Japan, and Slade was amazed by the eastern nation. He commented on the Japanese being really clean with strict rules but really nice and patient to visitors who didn’t seem to judge anyone no matter where they were from or what they were into. He wished that the U.S. had more of these same characteristics. From a Godzilla themed hotel to unique bathroom technology, the differences between the East and the West were varied. Japan has been Slade’s favorite place to visit so far and would like to visit many more nations of the East.
When asked if other families and their young kids should travel abroad, Slade resounds with an enthusiastic "Yes". The chance to experience other cultures has only expanded his education. Things that he may have thought were weird or different makes so much more sense now. He mentions that he never understood why some Japanese wear medical masks in public, but he learned on his visit that it is a polite courtesy to warn others that they are sick or under the weather.
Slade hopes his next adventure is a 17-day European adventure with his high school history teacher and other students. Being raised by a single mother, traveling can be a bit tough but she wants him to go on these adventures. So a little Go Fund Me campaign is in the works to help out a bit. This trip will take him to Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and England.
Like any kid that wants to stay up on Christmas Eve, Slade can barely sleep the night before a trip to another destination. He even cherishes the ride on the 405 freeway to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) as he dreams of the adventure that awaits him on the other side of the world. Slade has become wiser beyond his years, but in case you were worried, he can still play, conduct pranks, and be a rascal -- he’s still a kid, just a well-traveled one. I'd be remiss if I didn't give a hearty shout out to his fundraising campaign to visit five more countries before he's eighteen. Click here if you would like to help. I hope to once again share his travel stories right here on The Lost Journey and maybe hire him as my young correspondent. Cheers.