Place Jacques-Cartier in Montreal's Old Town.

It seems so long ago that I was a boy. Actually, it was long ago, longer than I care to remember, but it also seems like yesterday. It was, in fact, so long ago that some of it begins to fade from memory. But of course, I remember some things as though they happened yesterday.

One thing I remember quite well was seeing “From Russia With Love,” the second installment in what would become my lifelong fascination with James Bond movies. The scenery in particular left a great impression on me. As I watched 007 fight his way across exotic Istanbul, I knew I would have to see that fabled city someday. Right then and there, I became obsessed not only with Bond, but also with travel.

I did eventually see Istanbul, but it took some 20 years. Some people get where they want to go sooner, others later. And while the North Pole may not be on everyone’s itinerary, it’s got to be, for most people, one of those once-in-a-lifetime “bucket list” trips that get put off until they’ve seen most everything else.

Most people. Not Jonathan Geier.

The placid Square Dorchester off Rue Peel in Montreal.

Jonathan is an adventurous eighth-grader from Ellicott City, Md., who is lucky enough to be traveling to the Pole in July with Expedition Cruises, aboard the Russian nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory. He’ll be traveling with his father, Kevin, and will undoubtedly have one terrific “what I did on my summer vacation” essay to write when he returns to school in September.

“I’m very excited about it, it’s a great honor,” Jonathan told me recently. “I’m not bragging, but a lot of people think I’m lying when I tell them where I’m going. I wish (my friends) had these experiences, but they don’t.”

Jonathan has traveled to more places at the tender age of 14 than many people do in a lifetime, including Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and Central America. He shows a remarkable maturity and worldliness in discussing his travels, and talks of the pleasure of meeting different people and seeing different things. “It’s like the traveling has shaped me into the person I am now,” he said. “It’s really good to experience that kind of stuff and different cultures. It’s a lot of fun. I love to meet new people and experience things and eat new foods.”

He mentioned France and Paris among the places he liked best, and said he’s always wanted to go to Cuba. While he’s currently doing the things that young people normally do – hanging out with his friends, playing lacrosse, skateboarding and even scuba diving – he’s interested in psychology and medicine, and eventually might like to become a doctor or lawyer. It’s a good bet that his travel experiences and the people and cultures he’ll have encountered by then will make him a good one.

When asked what he thought his North Pole experience would be like, he said he expected it “to be cold.” Also cool.

* * *

A quick weekend trip to Montreal was a good way for Dina and me to put everyday cares behind us. As it is one of the few French-speaking places in the Western Hemisphere, it reminded us of our recent trip to Paris. But Montreal is its own city, of course, bilingual and elegant and different enough to make one feel far from home. Accompanied by our colleague Isabelle, we walked the boulevards and side streets, and saw the elegant architecture and ultra-modern buildings that co-exist side-by-side with colonial-era structures. We were struck by the contrast, the old giving way to the new, yet holding its own.

The Spade Farm "Old Hollow" Covered Bridge in Ferrisburgh, Vt., built in 1824.

On the way home, we took Route 7, which wends its way through Vermont, the Green Mountain State. Burlington and the Revolutionary-era town of Bennington were among our stops, the former with its lively dining scene, the latter with its stunning Battle Monument rising, illuminated, into the dark. On the highway, by day, the state lived up to its nickname, with rolling green hills in the distance. Late at night, seemingly thousands of stars pinpricked the black sky.

* * *

Back home in New York, we attended an art opening in Chelsea. The gallery was located in a former warehouse, where we were surprised to find an elevator operator transporting us to our floor. It was an old-fashioned elevator with a big, round switch and handle, which he would rotate to go up or down.

“Huh, a real live elevator operator,” I said to him.

“That’s right,” he answered, with a Spanish accent.

I told him how my father had immigrated to this country from Brazil in 1926, and had worked as an elevator operator in the nearby Garment District for more than 30 years. In those days most elevators had that switch, not the pushbuttons they have now, with no need for an operator. I was a little kid back then, barely as tall as the switch, and my father would let me operate it and take the passengers to their floors, to their delight.

Sometimes he would take me onto the roof of his building on West 38th Street, and we would look out at the buildings and the ships on the Hudson. We could even see the Statue of Liberty. My dad said he’d spent a week or more in steerage en route from Brazil to Ellis Island. It was dark and crowded and uncomfortable, but when they finally reached New York Harbor and saw Lady Liberty, “it was the greatest sight in the world,” he said. As we stood atop his building, the river led everywhere. Anything seemed possible.

The elevator operator listened to my story. “Go ahead,” he said. “Run it.” I took hold of the switch and took us to our floor.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Have a good night,” he answered.

Each generation leads the next on its journey. OK, Jonathan. Have a good trip.

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