As delayed flight #198 to Calgary finally touched the runway, my nerves steeled for the first leg of this trip.

The facts. My brother is 5 years older than me. In our childhood, he use to purposely upset a crucial romantic scene between Barbie and Ken by pretending to be Godzilla, storming through to rain destruction on love ever after. He loves golfing and has a successful career in computer programming. I hardly know him.

My thoughts whirred along with the baggage carousel.

Certainly we’ve had phone conversations and visits. Quips were bandied around. The harsh truth – a sense of who he is or what his dreams entail is a remote tower, impenetrable and cloudy.

I waited for him underneath a sign labeled “cell phone passengers pick up only”. Any outsider could easily pinpoint my expression. Disheveled, confused – a woman clutching her new life in a daypack, backpack, and for some odd reason – a live cat. In a pet carrier that doubles for a duffel bag. Uh huh.

Brother pulled into the pick up zone in a sleek BMW, a far cry from my car free, transit induced life in Vancouver.

We greeted each other briefly,  hastily piling bags and limbs until every man, woman and cat were safely encased in the vehicle. Off we went.

One travel ingredient that hasn’t gotten tired is grounding into a foreign place. Calgary is set apart from that rule, I spent my formative years here.  ‘New’ doesn’t exist in the equation.

The BMW lulled along the densely paved roads, gliding among traffic perfectly spaced apart. Then I saw them. Strip malls.

Ohh, that’s where I use to wait for my crush Brad, Grade 9, wasn’t it?

We sailed past the 64 Avenue N. road sign.

The brown house on Norfolk Drive. I was six. Dolls and ice cream were my world.

Suddenly we entered a more recently built community, one that was raised long after I left. It stings to know life indeed, goes on without you.

I counted pick up trucks sharing road space as we made our way towards my brother’s condo. 6 so far.  Nothing special for Cowtown. But these were 21st century models, glossy and pod shaped, not the worn down GMC’s of my youth.

I noticed the lack of humans. Nobody walking the streets. Just cars coughing out exhaust. Dust swirled, sticking to the ribs of the car.

As the BMW climbed Country Hills Drive, my vision locked onto the endless skyline – sunsets dipping into the earth, almost stark and remote. Like my desires and wishes. It’s too easy here. To fall into a sleepy, unimaginative state. I hungered to leave — be in the action — ingest little explosions of life. Not dry, brittle dreams, brown as the foilage is 8 months of the year here.

While memories mingled with unspoiled impressions of Calgary, I turned to my brother. We had chatted throughout the car ride, but a veil had stopped me from focusing strictly on him.

I finally understood why I’m here. It’s not about a place. There won’t be any carousing at the Stampede, logging rope time with cowboys. I won’t be hankering to hike the hoodoos of Drumheller in hopes a dinosaur bone discovery makes me a rich travel writer. I’ve grown beyond the borders of Calgary.

It’s about people. Relating to my brother, discovering what makes him tick, then loving him strengths and flaws together. What loomed most was reconnecting with a mother who can’t communicate with me.

Hot tourist spots or local cuisine is not in store for me. What I’ll bloat myself with are stories from childhood, those comfort foods my brother and I adore, and holding my mother’s stable hand, the one not gnarled by dementia and suffering.

It’s wise to ask yourself: is travel about the people or the place? Or both?