Sunday, November 29, 2015

Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) Vol. 2 - My First Time Out of the Country

The first time I stepped foot out of the country

The year was 1992.  I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston was the number one song in the land.  The Bodyguard, Aladdin, Home Alone 2, and A Few Good Men were in the theaters.  Neon windbreakers, Zubaz (those crazy colored, zebra pattern pants), overalls (with one strap down, of course), and the grunge look were all the rage in fashion.  That December, I completed my first semester of my freshman year at Marshall University.  Later that month, after Christmas, my dad and stepmother took my stepbrother and me to Niagara Falls, Canada.  That was the first time I ever stepped foot out of the country.
A postcard I picked up in 1992.
Thinking about it now, I admit that I have forgotten many of the details of the experience.  But, in my defense, that was over 20 years ago (over half my life) and I've had thousands of experiences since then, so I think it's ok if the details are a little... fuzzy.  

Looking back at the few pictures I took from that trip, in hopes of jogging my memory, I do remember it being incredibly easy to cross the border.  It was nothing like what I experienced crossing the border this summer when I visited Canada.  You must remember, my first trip out of the country was almost a decade before 9/11 - passports were not required and no questions were asked.  I remember that I did bring a copy of my birth certificate with me, just in case.  
The American Falls (left) and the Canadian/Horseshoe Falls (right)
The most vivid thing I recall about the experience was the biting cold.  I'm not sure what we were thinking going to Niagara Falls in winter!  It was incredibly pretty though.  The constant mist generated from the both the American Falls and the Canadian/Horseshoe Falls drifts across the Niagara River to the Canadian side.  In the winter, as it did when I was there, it freezes immediately on whatever it lands on - sidewalks, handrails, buildings, trees...  While incredibly treacherous, for it made walking around quite a challenge, it was beautiful because everything had a shimmery, magical look to it.  With the recent snowfall still on the ground, it really looked like a Winter Wonderland.

Evidence that the mist freezes on everything...

The American Falls at night
To the best of my recollections, I don't remember ever feeling like, "Wow!  I'm in another country!"  I guess I felt this way because I was right across the river from New York and the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario looked like it could've been any tourist destination in the U.S.  The Clifton Hill area, with its Ripley's Believe it or Not and other tourist attractions, looked a lot like downtown Gatlinburg (Tennessee).  And, there was nothing really foreign about it - the people I encountered spoke English and sounded similar to New Yorkers I had met; Canadians drive on the same side of the road as we do here in the states; the food offered in restaurants was pretty much the same; and they even accepted U.S. dollars.  The only "foreignness" I encountered was seeing the speed limits posted in kilometers and dealing with the exchange rate.  That was it.

Even though it wasn't the most foreign of  destinations to serve as my first foreign country experience (like Mexico, England, or Japan would have), I'm so glad for the experience.  To see the falls in winter, with all the ice and snow, is something that many Americans, especially those of us who live further south, never get to see.  I'm also glad that my father shared with experience with me.  I've not traveled much with my dad, I've taken by far and away more trips with my mom, but he gets the bragging rights on having taken me out of the country for the very first time.
My stepbrother, my dad, and me on the deck of the observation tower, the American Falls in the background.

What was your first foreign country that you visited?  What was the experience like? Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one!

Linking up with Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me 
and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead.


  1. that photo of the american falls and canadian horseshoe is spectacular. nice work!

    1. Thank you! It was taken with a big, bulky Minolta 35mm SRL camera that I barely knew how to operate back in the day! LOL! I lucked up with that shot.

  2. I loved reading this! I live pretty close to NF in Ontario and visit the falls very frequently. I actually drive on the Rainbow Bridge every few weeks to cross into the states to go shopping!

  3. This is a place that is on the bucket list. It seems so majestic. My first time out of the country? College Spring Break 1994 to Cancun, Mexico. I didn't need a passport either. And, we weren't worried about Mexican drug cartels. Wait...come to think of it, I went to South Padre Island which is in Texas and went across the border to Matamoras, Mexico before that. We didn't even think back then it was all that dangerous. Things have changed along the border nowadays.

    1. Niagara Falls is a unique experience. I've been twice in the winter (again, what were we thinking?) and twice in the summer. Fewer crowds in winter and the freezing makes everything pretty, but it's cold, cold, cold and several attractions aren't operational (Maid of Mist/Hornblower cruises to falls, for instance). I went this summer in June and the crowds weren't bad. I agree with you, Mexico has changed A LOT, hasn't it? The first time I went to MX was in 2003 when Robert and I went there to get married. We thought nothing of traveling by ourselves. The last time we went, in 2009, we were a little more cautious because even in that short amount of time, things in MX had changed a lot.


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