A couple of weeks ago, my nephew (and godson), Derek, sent me a letter.
It read, "I just read a book in class about a boy named Stanley Lambchop. He got mashed by a bulletin board and now he is flat. He told his parents he wanted to travel so they folded him up and sent him to California.
I am sending my Flat Stanley to you. Could you please take pictures of him where you are and send the photos back to me? I will tell my class about his adventures."
It turns out, this Flat Stanley thing is quite a well known phenomenon.
I took him all over the city -- Central Park, Times Square, Lincoln Center. Then, I gave Stanley to my best girlfriend, Betsey.
She took him on her trip to Thailand. On the flight there, she sat next to Miss USA who was on her way to the Miss Universe pageant. She posed with Flat Stanley for the photo above. I have never looked that good on a 17 hour flight, but I guess that why she's Miss USA and not me.
Betsey took photos of Stanley at different temples in Bangkok and the beach in Pattaya. She got a shot of him with Buddha statues and also with a woman she met from Uganda wearing full African dress.
Then Betsey handed Stanley off to a doctor from Sudan. He's going to take photos of Stanley in Chad and the United Arab Emirates.
I wasn't expecting so much to happen from this project, but it's been loads of fun for me to imagine how Derek will react.
In my extended family, I am known as the traveler because I have moved around a lot and been to different countries. I have been fortunate to fall into a circle of friends who pursue travel as a way of living. My sister said she's pleased that Derek chose the right relative to send his Stanley to.
I hope I can bestow my wanderlust upon my niece and nephews. I am hoping Derek will be inspired by the result of the project. That he'll see the little cut-out drawing that he did in all these different places in the world and realize that it's not so difficult to imagine himself in those places. And, I hope he'll see how lucky he is, growing up in a world that is wonderfully accessible and exciting to explore.