February 17th ~ Canoga Park, California
We are sometimes asked what we get out of traveling; what we are looking for; what are we gaining. I guess there is no simple answer to that, but here goes:
Countdown of the Top Five things we gain from traveling around the world…
Number 5: Learning about places, people, culture, history, politics, art
Not to brag, but I was a pretty good student back in the day (OK, it is WAY back in the day). I got a lot of A’s, was on the Honor roll, and scored high on most tests without breaking my neck studying, with ONE BIG EXCEPTION – History and Geography classes! I found both boring and they just held no interest for me. I actually got a “D” in both classes in about the 3rd or 4th grade. Rather embarrassing to admit, but sadly it is true.
Today, learning about each new place we visit is one of the biggest perks for me. I love it when we are hosted by a knowledgable guide who can make the local history and culture come to life. I can spend hours (often to my husband and traveling companions frustration) reading each and every display in a new museum.
Constantly snapping pictures, with a real desire to capture the flavor, sights, and colors of our surroundings also makes me more aware of both the contrasts and sameness of “home”.
I really want to learn about each area. I welcome the opportunity to talk with people whose lives, customs, clothing, language, and food does not look the same as mine. What do we have in common? What is different?
And of course when I go to write a new blog entry I do an abundance of research about each destination to be able to share bits and details, hopefully making the current place come to life for anyone following along with us.
Number 4: Sharing quality time with my mate
Some say that long-term travel will either make or break your relationship. I know we are very blessed to have an amazing marriage and our time abroad has only strengthened it.
Before we get out the door and head for the airport at LAX, we each have certain things we prepare. Tim takes care of the bills, financial planning, gets to the bank, notifies our credit card companies where we are going and a lot of the day-to-day management of our lives.
My role is to plan our travel (where we are going, how we are getting there, where we are staying, arrange hotels, tours, excursions, etc.), write-up our itinerary to leave with family, and pack.
But we are a team when we travel. Once we leave home we both have each others back, make joint decisions for where to eat, plan any side adventures, and how we will spend the day.
We revel in our freedom and laugh together. We are creating memories that we will (and often do) recall for the rest of our lives. Time away creates an even more intimate bond and is wonderful for our romantic life.
It reinforces why we fell in love in the first place.
Number 3: Teaches compassion and understanding of those with less
We have certainly seen enough third world countries, extreme poverty,untreated illness, lack of education, and poor sanitation to give us a pretty good handle on just how blessed we are here in the USA.
As they say, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. Well, until you witness first hand what it is like to not have a roof over your head, no bed to sleep in, have to go hungry, have no chance to get work because either jobs do not exist, or you do not have the education and/or skills to qualify, have little or no health care available or could not afford to pay for it even if it was available, you probably will not truly appreciate all you have now.
But once you are exposed to the inequities found around the world, you will react one of two ways – turn a blind eye, find it difficult to look at, feel pity, disgust OR feel compassion, empathy, love, and want to do something to help.
Over the years, our lives have only become richer by doing what we can along the way to try to lift up our fellow-man.
Number 2: Adventures – riding an elephant, going up in a hot air balloon, interacting with lions/tigers, having a wild monkey sit on my lap
How is it possible that we have traveled to eighty-ish countries (sorry I don’t know exact number, need to count up again one of these days), and still feel like we have only scratched the surface? Well, I guess it is because it is a REALLY big world out there.
So far we have:
- Climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris France and the Harbor Bridge in Sidney Australia.
- Gone up in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia Turkey and the Goodyear Blimp in Los Angeles
- Flew in a float plane and landed on a glacier lake in Alaska and walked on floating islands on Lake Titicaca Peru.
- Ridden an elephant in Thailand and a camel in Morocco
- Eaten bugs, rat, alligator, worms, rattle snake, and a whole lot more interesting and disgusting things
- Been to six of the seven continents (hoping for Antarctica in 2017)
- Been in a cage with tigers in Thailand, walked with lions in the wild in Zimbabwe and had wild monkeys sit on my lap (Krabi) and climb on my back (River Kwai) and swam with stingrays and dolphins in the Caribbean.
- Been one of the first to visit a submarine base in Vladivostok Russia right after it was opened to outsiders and traveled to Cuba on a People-to-People program before it was officially reopened to American travel.
- Walked on the Great Wall of China, cried when viewing Machu Picchu for the first time and marveled at the Taj Mahal.
- Taken scenic train rides in New Zealand, China, India, Peru, and throughout western Europe.
- Witnessed the thunderous roar and grandeur of some of the most magnificent waterfalls including Victoria Falls (from both Zambia and Zimbabwe), Niagara Falls (both US and Canadian sides), falls at Plitvice National Park, (Croatia), Yosemite Falls (Yosemite National Park, USA), and Gullfoss (Iceland)
- Traveled inside the Arctic Circle and witnessed the midnight sun (24 hours of sunshine)
- Visited the top/largest cathedrals of the world including La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain), Notre Dame (Paris, France), Seville Cathedral (Spain), Liverpool Cathedral (UK), the Cathedral of St Sava (Serbia), Hagia Sophia (as well as the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Westminster Abbey (London), St Basil’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg, Russia), and St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome),
- Been impressed by Asian masterpieces including the Golden Pavilion (Kyoto Japan), the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Forbidden City (China)
- Experienced sailing/cruising/boating on such well-known rivers as the River Kwai (Thailand), the Danube (from Budapest to Regensburg, Germany), Russian Rivers from Moscow to St Petersburg, explored the San Juan Islands, helped crew on a retired America’s Cup racing yacht in the Caribbean and cruised up the Seine in France.
- Explored or visited numerous famous castles such as Dracula’s aka Bran Castle (Romania), Blarney Castle (Ireland) Osaka Castle (Japan), Pele’s Castle (Romania), Edinburgh Castle (Scotland), Versailles (France), Prague Castle (Czech Republic), Scotty’s Castle (Death Valley), Catherine’s Palace (Russia)
- Seen amazing original works of art such as the Mona Lisa and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
- Grieved at war memorials including Normandy Beach (France), the Nagasaki Peace Park (Japan), Pearl Harbor (Oahu, Hawaii), as well as Auschwitz and Birkenau.
- Visited some of the top museums of the world including the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), the Musee d’orsay and The Louvre (Paris), British Museum (London), Vatican Museum, Rijksmuseum (the Netherlands), the National Palace Museum (Taiwan), the Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia).
- Taken Spanish lessons in Guatemala and cooking classes in Thailand
- And marveled at natural scenic wonders around the world that are beyond what can be captured completely with even the best cameras, including the Grand Canyon, our National Parks and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
And surprisingly, this is just a portion of the amazing things we have had the privilege of seeing/doing/experiencing together traveling.
And my travel bucket list keeps getting longer and longer…
Number 1: Friendships gained, people we meet along the way, who share stories, make recommendations, help create special moments and memories
As truly awesome as some of the other items on our list are, by far the number one benefit we have found to traveling is meeting people and making friends along the way. I don’t want to start name dropping, for fear of leaving out some very special people, but a few standouts we have been privileged to get to know better and been lucky enough to meet up again somewhere else in the world would include:
Mary Beth – we met on a Caribbean Cruise and later met up in Los Angeles, have traveled together to Guatemala where we joined her when she adopted her second daughter, and have visited her home in Michigan. We have shared so much over the years, have a lot in common, and even though we seldom see each other, she is like family.
Karen, Dick, Jan & Gary – I lump these two couples together as we most often have traveled together as a group. Meeting through our charity work in Guatemala, we have since traveled together to Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Spain, Peru, Scotland, Morocco, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and India. Besides being great travel buddies, they have also become very close friends.
Ben & Yulia – had the privilege of being on a Gate 1 tour with them in Turkey and joined them last year on an amazing trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.
Lise and Charlie – we originally met on a Danube River cruise, discovered they too were on an extended trip of traveling around the world. We later caught up with each other in Scotland and a couple of months later stayed with them in Maine.
Paul and Linda – this fun-loving couple fell into the midst of our sextet (Tim & Joanne, Dick & Karen, Jan & Gary) when we were on a Gate 1 trip in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. They fit like a glove with our group, and we shared many laughs as well as evening cocktail hour through out that journey. They graciously hosted Tim and me in 2014 at their lovely home near Chicago when we were driving cross-country. This past weekend, we got to once again get together here in Southern California when business brought them out West.
Anna – we met while studying Spanish in Guatemala and later she joined Tim and me in her native Barcelona where she introduced us to her favorite tapas.
And there are so many of you who we have met on trips who we have maintained friendships through Facebook and emails. Perhaps we shared a table on a cruise ship, spent hours together on a bus, walked the streets on a tour in Europe, experienced culture shock in SE Asia or India, laughed over a glass of wine, were awestruck by a natural wonder, spotted wild animals on safari or shared stories of other travel adventures.
It always makes us smile whenever we hear from any of you, whether through a kind word or comment here, through a travel group on Facebook (like Travel the world simply, that was started by our friend Sharon who we met in Thailand), or an email. We treasure and appreciate each and every one of you!
And to sum it all up: The experiences, learning, adventures, sights, sounds, colors, places, tours, and food are all wonderful to experience, but it is the PEOPLE we have the privilege of meeting and sharing it with that make it extraordinary.
And how about you, our fellow travelers? What would you list among the top benefits/joys/plusses of traveling? I would love to hear what traveling has come to mean for you.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am thankful that we got to reconnect with a wonderful couple that we met half way around the world and share some quality time in our little corner of Southern California
P.S. Happy 10th Anniversary Paul and Linda and a very Happy Birthday to my brother-in-law, Mark.