At least a couple of weeks before the trip, begin a list of the places you might want to see. Start with the obvious locations — home, schools, church, friends’ houses, playgrounds, parks, neighborhood stores, hang-outs. Add any place that retrieves a special memory or has special meaning for you. You don’t have to visit them all, but it’s better to start with a large list than leave something important out. After you’ve jotted down all the places that come to mind, see if any of these categories suggests some others:
Special personal places from childhood. Tree houses, forts, caves, overgrown trees, clearings in the woods, barns.
Places of accomplishment. Sites of successes, victories or jobs well done in sports, debate, chess, music, drama, drawing, singing, scouting, spelling, baking, raising livestock.
Places of failure, pain and disappointment. Sites in which you did not do well in any of the above, or places associated with public humiliations, romantic break-ups, accidents, arrests, arguments, losses.
“First” places. The place where you experienced your first kiss, dance, date, employment, drink, camping trip, driving lesson, shopping trip without your parents, traffic ticket.
Places you visited regularly as a child. For piano lessons, haircuts, speech therapy, soccer practice, after-school care, work on your braces, karate lessons.
Places related to your parents. Where they worked, where they lived, where they met, where they went to school, where they used to bowl, sing, volunteer or dance.
It’s best to start your list a week or two before the trip, because you most likely will think of more places as the date of departure approaches. You probably also will scratch a few places off the list. Think of it as a work in progress. When it seems you’ve remembered just about every place you might want to see, jog your memory a little. Pull out yearbooks, old letters and any photographs you have from childhood. If you are still in contact with friends or relatives from your childhood, start up a conversation about the good old days and see if any other place you hadn’t thought of emerges. One man I interviewed did this and was reminded by his sister of his fear of swimming. That memory prompted him to visit the site of his first swimming lesson — a lesson that had lasted only about five minutes before he left crying. However, I should add that the story has a happy ending. The man went on to be an accomplished swimmer and included a visit to his high school swimming pool in his trip.