Chelle Summer


Michelle Rusk

I was raised on wanderlust.

I didn’t know it, but from my childhood on, the importance of travel was implanted in me through life experiences. My maternal grandparents lived so close to O’Hare Airport in Chicago that if you were having a conversation on the phone when a jet flew overhead, you had to wait for the jet to pass to continue the conversation.

But what I remember most are the drives to and from their house– from our house in the western suburbs– that not just took us right by the airport, but along the tollway lined with billboards of the places that airlines like Pam American and Eastern were now flying to. There was non-stop escape to islands and the idea of visiting homelands like Poland. New high rise hotels replaced the smaller two-story ones as I grew up, O’Hare added terminals.

The world of travel increased and with it went my grandparents behind the Iron Curtain to Poland to see relatives. And to Egypt to ride camels (at least that’s the memory I have– I don’t have the photo evidence that I once saw, but my sister Karen has the stuffed camel they brought our mother back from the trip). They always brought us ten grandchildren gifts home including a wooden doll from Poland, a coin purse from Rome, a beaded necklace that I’m not sure where it’s from. There was always something, something I didn’t understand about the significance of where it came from.

There also were trips to the airport– all of us grandchildren tagging along– to see Grandma and Grandpa off on yet another trip, the long-gone days when we could all trek to the gate and see someone walk through the door to the jetway to the plane.

My mother longed to travel and we did all over the United States in the station wagon, my dad content not to leave the continent because he had “seen the world” in the Navy in late 1940s into the 1950s. Mom went to travel school and to work for the old Midway Airlines so that she could take us (particularly my younger sister Denise and I) on day trips like to shop at Macys in New York City (long before we were mad at Macys for taking away our beloved Marshall Fields).

While we’d been all over Canada and over the border to Mexico, it wasn’t until 2005 that I took my first trip overseas to Europe, staying with my junior high and high school pen pals, people I’d never met before but whom I shared my life through letters and photos. And who then shared with me their worlds in person.

My world became smaller and life led me overseas once or twice a year for multiple years.

For some people, Morroco might seem far away, like another world, and in many ways it is. But for me, it was yet another place to explore and learn from, just as I’d seen in the magazines and books in one of the bedrooms of my grandparents house as the jets flew overhead, taking people all over the world.