In my journal, I wrote: "I feel it is my duty to report on the connections, ever increasing, between this city and Nueva York. I already knew about the unbelievable flow of educated and uneducated human bodies, but it is more than that. Despite many reports to the contrary, people really believe that New York City is a promised land where they will make untold riches. Kids are dying to go, and it's easy to see why — their cousins come back better dressed, with video games and stories from the big city."
I went back to visit many times in the next six years, even studied immigration policy in grad school. But that journal entry led to the first time I was paid to take a trip as a journalist and contained the gist of the first big story I would publish in the New York Times:
"Transfixed by New York: Whether as Dream or Nightmare, the City Looms Uncommonly Large in the Minds of Dominicans, New York's Largest Immigrant Group."
Since then, I've found myself wandering onto pistachio farms in Turkey, getting off the train in a random Hungarian town and talking my way into lunch at a rural Kentucky church. I learned Portuguese and began writing about Brazil, once again cataloging cultural differences, this time gleaned from lounging with the ultrarich in their beach homes and sleeping in a hammock in a tiny riverside village in the Amazon.
My connection with the Dominican Republic has waned, but the joy I take in feeling at home in a second culture has not. That summer in 1993 became my model for the perfect trip.
Seth Kugel is a New York Times travel writer.
Also of Interest:
The Power of Travel: Where the Best Moments Happen
The Power of Travel: Youthful Promises in Paris
The Power of Travel: A Yogini Goes to India