I've always been fascinated with travel. I live by the saying, "I haven't been everywhere yet but it's on my list." I still remember the day the encyclopedia salesman came to our home in St. Charles, Missouri, sat at the kitchen table, and sold my parents an encyclopedia set. I was that child that couldn't get enough to read, partially due to my parents love of reading, and partially due to the lack of televisions and cable TV present in our home. I would curl up in our red recliner, open up a random volume, and dream about one day visiting all the countries I read about.
When I was older and living in a suburb of Dallas, my sixth grade Texas History teacher assigned us basically the most fun project I had ever worked on to date. It was to plan a "vacation" around the state of Texas. I'm quite positive the internet was up and running by this point but I have no recollection that anyone was really using it. I distinctly remember that I wanted to plan my trip to small towns, off the "beaten-path", that most of the class would have never heard of. I knew every town must have something to offer that was unique, and so I wrote my happy little heart out to every local tourism office, to order every brochure and magazine to plan my "Texas Trip."
My granddad though, a 96 year-old retired Army colonel and insurance salesman, is who I attribute for instilling this love of travel to me. My earliest memories are of packages of gifts arriving anywhere from Indonesia to Scotland. With each opened package was another far away country added to my list. My granddad valued experiences and memories over possessions and gifted me with many. With each visit to his small condo, I would find a new pin added to his map and a new story to tell. His stories always included details from interacting with locals, exploring the road less traveled, and ditching his organized tour group.
It wasn't just his love of traveling the globe that inspired me, but also his uncanny ability to discover the most fantastic local places in any town he visited (or to obtain the life story of the proprietor). You see, my granddad was in to "all things local" before it was cool and trendy.
My husband and I have recently settled in St. Louis, our 5th city as a married couple. Professional school, residency, and careers has taken us all over the middle United States. With each move we've dived in head first to explore all things local and in the process, fall in love with whatever city we're calling home pretty easily. Sincerely, local menagerie may be nothing more than a personal virtual scrap book, housing memories from all our varied experiences here in St. Louis, but if that's so, then it is a virtual scrapbook I wish I had for our time in Chicago and Lexington. For those who stumble upon it, I hope you enjoy it and also find yourself discovering a little of what makes St. Louis such a special and unique place to live or visit.