Wrap Your Heart Around the World

Photo by Time Magazine

In 1964, the Beatles walked down the steps of a Pan Am Boeing 707 and stepped onto American soil at New York's Kennedy Airport. A few months later, my parents drove our family of four across the United States from Colorado to the World’s Fair in New York City. From there, we drove to Montreal, sold our car, and sailed on the cold waters of the Atlantic down the St. Lawrence Seaway on a steamship bound for England. We didn’t step back on American soil until 1965—one year, 27 countries, and one London Beatles concert later.  

The world would never be the same—for our family, for the Beatles, for the teenage girls who swooned over John, Paul, George, and Ringo as girls had swooned over Elvis and James Dean. Those times now seem deceptively innocent, the girls with their penny loafers and ponytails, the half-grown boys with their bobbed bangs singing, She's in love with me, and I feel fine... She's so glad, she's telling all the world.... 

Ukraine is telling the world now - and none of us feel fine.

New York's World Fair, 1964, photo by Garry Winogrand. 

When our family courageously stepped foot on Russia's frozen soil in January of 1965 (less than a month after attending the Beatles concert in London), we ventured behind the forbidden Iron Curtain and into the Soviet Union. We did so with brave and foolish hearts. The Communist Party bureaucrats had just forced Khrushchev from power, and our Russian interpreter closely guarded our conversations. When we stood, nearly frozen, in line at the Kremlin’s Red Square to see Vladimir Lenin’s entombed body, we were not allowed to speak with the Russian tourists. The frigid history of the USSR was breathing down our necks.

Ten days later, crossing from East Berlin to West Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie, we saw fresh blood on a straw bale from one man’s desperate run for freedom. He did not make it. 

And so the Ukrainian people now flee. Yet my nephew, who lived in Moscow for nearly 9 years and now lives in France, knows the Russian people are not the same as the Russian government. He has friends of many nationalities - Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, French, Spanish, etc. "It’s part of the richness of living here," he writes, "and it means a war like this will touch you personally no matter your background…"

During our family's trip around the world, we traveled modestly and without fanfare, priding ourselves on being courteous Americans, on smiling first, on learning how to say please and thank you in the language of our host country.  My father’s hand was always extended in friendship, his enthusiasm nearly always contagious. Our mother's smile was always gracious, always willing to trust. We were not rich Americans, but the richness of humanity filled each day.

I am grateful to our parents for instilling in me the love of travel and the desire to explore other cultures. I am grateful for the chance to travel once again to Peru, to France, to Italy, and beyond. I am grateful that our parents taught us to wrap our hearts around the world, no matter how imperfect, no matter how many epidemics, no matter how many wars. Love, love me do, the world calls out now. I'll always be true. 

Photo of our parents taken as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, one year later.
If you are interested in joining me in Italy this May or for my Peru adventure in August, please email page@pagelambert.com. More info on all my travel adventures at www.pagelambert.com.


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