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Traveling with no regret

The Travel Addict’s Benefactors; A Love Letter — May 24, 2020

The Travel Addict’s Benefactors; A Love Letter

“The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories.” -Og Mandino

**Please forgive the photo quality for some of the following photos. Some of them are very old!

When I pack my suitcase for one of our adventures, I rarely acknowledge where my addiction to travel started.  Since I’ve been missing my suitcase during the 2020 Pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on how my passion came to be.   

1970: Christina and her Dad aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, Boston Harbor

On Mother’s Day, I was happy to visit with my parents.  In the times of “social distancing,” we were quite frankly, tired of being apart so we threw caution to the wind and spent the day together–big hugs and all!  As we made our plans for the day, I asked my mom if I could look through our old family photos.  She has piles of them and as I browsed the yellowing pages and flipped through loose, printed photos, I took note that there were no fabulous pictures of foreign lands, no campy cruise photos like the ones that photographers insist you pose for as you board a cruise ship, no old boarding passes, and no travel post cards like the ones we collect when we travel. This wasn’t really a surprise and knowing my parents, I wasn’t really expecting those types of photos anyway. 

Instead, as I sorted through the pictures, I was looking for something else; memories!  In my search, I realized that my Mom and Dad sparked my love of travel!  My Dad worked hard to support his young family and my Mom made it her priority to ensure that my brother and I had a secure and memorable childhood.  I was a happy kid and for that, I am eternally grateful.  And while I know that world wide travel wasn’t in the budget back then, what I do know is that my parents didn’t hesitate to load us kids into the car for endless road trips. 

With family and friends living well above the Mason-Dixon Line, we took countless summer trips to the Upstate New York countryside.  This is where I learned to drive a tractor and then a car, rode horses, milked cows, laid down in grass so tall that I disappeared from view, crawled into hay lofts, swam in bone chilling spring pools and streams, marveled at the birth of a calf, and ate corn on the cob freshly out of the field.  We loved going to the weekly farm auction, eating cheese curds and curly fries, and watching horse and tractor pulls at the summer fair.  I learned to love the small town farm life and appreciate the people who live it. 

1984: Christina visits the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston again

While in New York one summer, we headed to Niagara Falls, venturing into Canada and looking back toward home from a foreign country for my first time.  That was back when Canada wasn’t so foreign–you didn’t need a passport to cross the boarder.  Although I distinctly recall the Boarder Patrol questioning everyone in the car.  As a kid, of course I didn’t have anything to declare except my favorite stuffed animal but the forceful questioning left an impression.  And then, there was the unforgettable, perpetual roar of the falls that we explored from above and below as well as from both sides of the boarder.  

1980: Niagara Falls

My parents took us up and down the East Coast from Maine to Florida.  Our family adventures have given us memories that we often laugh about as a family.  The most memorable include the perennial apple that my Mom packed as a snack for every road trip–never a cookie to be found!  Then there was the odyssey to Florida around my 13th birthday.  I think that trip’s main destination was Walt Disney World but for me, the lasting memory of the trip was the journey with four very tall people (and our luggage) packed into a two door hatchback Ford Pinto with no air-conditioning in late June/early July.  Needless to say, when my brother starting touching me, my Dad stopped the car with traffic whizzing by along the interstate, seats were exchanged and the touching definitely stopped!

I watched my Dad valiantly attempt to fish in beautiful mountain lakes with only little nibbles or tiny fish not fit for eating as his prize.  I have vivid memories of a very hot evening when my Dad and one of our dear family friends hand cranked ice cream on the porch of a State park cabin while sweat poured down their faces.  I recall horseback riding and looking for “Fairy Stones” in other State Parks,  watching my Mom eat lobster in Maine with a bib around her neck, observing while my Dad packed our cars with military precision, making use of every inch, visiting the ducks at The Peabody Hotel, and an endless afternoon in a hotel pool in Nashville with my brother while my parents ventured off to the Grand Ole Opry (everyone was happy).

1984: Mom eating Lobster!

Then there are the sweet memories of our favorite family activity, camping.  It is amazing to me that we loved it so when our very first camping trip was in a Pop up tent camper and just after setting up, the rain that Noah must have experienced came down leaving us stranded inside with nothing to do.  As teenagers, it was torture!  Eventually, even my steadfast Dad gave up and we took the contraption down and went home.  Damp but not discouraged, we went out again and again.  Over time we graduated to newer and bigger campers and disappeared as a family into what my Husband calls the “deep dark woods,” as often as possible, sometimes for weeks at a time. 

As I got older, travel also included the addition of Mission trips with my Church Youth group and summer camps as a counselor.  That meant that our summers would go something like this: we would come home from New York, wash clothes, pack, and head out for a week of camp, come home, wash more clothes, pack again, and head off on a Mission trip.  The summers of my teenage years were busy, glorious and some of the most formative of life.  As a camp counselor, I worked with a woman named Rose Mary, helping her as she cooked in the camp kitchen and worked on craft projects with the campers.  Little did I know that she would one day be my Mother in Love! I made lifelong friends as we sat around the camp fire late into the night telling jokes that we thought were funny but turned hilarious as we eventually had to explain them to the most innocent of the group who, after each joke stated, “I don’t get it!”

1987: The Goofy Tourist (Me, my Dad and my brother), Opryland, Nashville, TN

I have to confess that as I looked through the photos with my Mom, I was a little disappointed that there are so few photos of most of these sweet memories.  On the other hand, I am equally relieved to have grown up during a time when we didn’t have a camera or electronic device readily available to expose all of our shenanigans! 

I cherish my childhood memories and credit them with my spirit of curiosity, love of fun, adventure and exploration.  My love of travel is an affliction for which my parents are to blame and from which I never wish to be cured.  It is also a condition that I still love to share with my parents when we are able, with friends as often as possible, and that I hope to pass on to anyone willing to come along.  As an adult, I am so very blessed to have a partner who loves to travel as much as I do, if not more so and that together, we have been able to go to places that I never thought I would see.  And to think, it all started long ago with a road trip to New York! 

Thanks Mom & Dad!  I love you both!

Travel Addicts in quarantine, Part II — May 2, 2020

Travel Addicts in quarantine, Part II

Quarantine week 6, day 46.  The Travel Addicts torture themselves! 

A few nights ago, we entertained ourselves by looking through photos from past adventures.  We love to do this but it’s just a little bittersweet right now since we know we can’t travel.  As Roger flipped through each picture, he started saying, “I can’t believe we were there!”   As he said it again and again, I started to wonder which “pinch me moment” places were my favorites.  The list is long and picking favorites is as impossible as picking your favorite child!  We have had some wonderful trips in fantastic places so it’s been hard to pick just a few. 

These are just a few of my “pinch me” places that I will remember when I am old and I will smile because I was there!

Venice.  Just the name is a complete sentence to me.  In my mind, there is no other place on the Earth like it and I fell in love with a place that is magical, romantic, and beautiful from nearly every angle. There was so much to see and so little time.  I don’t know of any other city in the world where you can take a water taxi to the airport!  Somehow, it felt wrong to get on a boat with my giant suitcase!   What an experience that was!  We loved the food, the artisans who make the famous Venetian glass, the food market, the magnificent buildings full of history and works of art, strolling down back walk ways that opened to grand Piazzas, and the Gondolas!  We were enraptured.  Our trip to Italy was a bucket list check off, for sure!  In fact, I have never taken it off!  My hope is that we can go back again one day and immerse ourselves in all things Italian with lots of time to enjoy the charms of Venice.   

The Grand Canal, Venice

Paris. For us, Paris is truly a “pinch me moment” with the emphasis on moment!  Our first trip to England was our first trip to Europe and we planned it all on our own.  We used Gray Line Tours to see the sights and in our planning, found a tour that took us by train from London through the Channel Tunnel into Paris for the day.  The entire day was 12 hours long so our actual time in Paris was 8 hours at the most.  At the time, we didn’t think we’d ever be that close again so we grabbed the opportunity to see everything we could.  Part of the tour took us onto the Seine River, giving us the opportunity to see Notre Dome from the water.  In light of the 2019 fire, I lamented that we didn’t have the time to go inside!  The tour shifted back to land at the base of the Eiffel Tower and while the bulk of our tour group went on to The Louvre, which is where we eventually reunited with them, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Paris from the Eiffel Tower.  Now, you need to know that I am not a fan of heights but in instances like this, I risk a panic attack and go anyway!  I’m so glad I did.  The elevators alone are an experience as they creep sideways up the leg of the tower to the first level which is as far as I ventured while Roger went all the way to the top. What a spectacular view!  In separating from our tour group, our tour guide told us that all we needed to do was grab a cab at the base of the tower and she told us how to find her.  RIGHT!  This left me as spokesperson, in PARIS, trying to remember my high school French lessons to get us, as politely as I could manage, to the Louvre.  I guess it worked but I told Roger to make sure to give the taxi driver a good tip!  I know!  Typical American!  I did my best!  That in itself was adventure enough!  Returning to Paris, and visiting other parts of France, remain BIG on my bucket list.  We can’t believe that we were there for less than 8 hours and saw what we saw.  It was a tiny taste of all things French and it was magnifique!

The elevator going up the leg of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Westminster Abbey; London, England.  We’ve all seen Westminster Abbey on TV during Royal weddings and funerals but let me assure you that in person, it is magnificent!  It took my breath away!  When I stood in this building, I felt the history all around me.  Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers, Poets, Scientists.  They are all there!  From the black and white tile floor to the soaring cathedral stained glass, it is a sight to see.  We’ve been lucky enough to be awed by it on two occasions now and I will go again and again if I am so fortunate. 

Westminster Abbey, London

The Hungarian Parliament Building; Budapest, Hungary.  We took a Viking River Cruise down the Danube from Budapest to Passau, Germany as an anniversary trip.  For me, the biggest highlight was Budapest.  My beloved Great Grandmother was Hungarian and I have wonderful memories of her, the wonderful food she cooked, and of a sweet children’s song that members of my family sang in Hungarian when I was young.  I thought a lot about her when we were in Budapest even though the Hungary we saw was likely very different than the one she left in 1912.  The Hungarian Parliament Building is fantastic from every angle and is an iconic figure in many of Viking’s ads.  We stood on the top deck as we left Budapest for our next port and my friend that was traveling with us captured this fabulous shot that I cherish!  What a fabulous place! I was so grateful to have been able to see just a glimpse of where my family came from.    

The Hungarian Parliament building, Budapest

Giant’s Causeway.  Our visit to Ireland was almost one we did not make.  My Travel Agent friend was planning an escorted trip and while we hadn’t considered going, we told Roger’s Dad about it.  Visiting Ireland had long been on his bucket list and we told him that if he wanted to go, we would go as well.  It turns out that Ireland is beautiful and full of wonderful people and we were so glad that we decided to go.  For me, my favorite parts were in Northern Ireland.  Specifically, Giant’s Causeway.  I have to admit that I knew nothing about the place before we went so when we arrived, I was, and still am, fascinated in the oddity and expanse of the location.  We gingerly climbed the rock formations and marveled at their shapes all around us.  We lost Roger’s Dad in 2017 and we are so glad that we were able to see Ireland with him. 

Giant’s Causeway. County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Canadian Rockies.  Roger will tell you that he didn’t want to go on this trip and that he had no idea what to expect.  Now, I’m pretty sure that he would be willing to go back.  While I knew what to expect, it was a trip full of awe.  Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park, The Columbia Ice Fields, Peyto Lake, Moraine Lake.  To us, these are some of the most beautiful places we have ever been.  The crystal blue glacial water makes you think you’re in a tropical locale for just a split second but the cathedral Mountains around you remind you that you aren’t.  The Rockies are a place to be admired and their ruggedness respected.  For me, it was humbling to look at the mountains around us.  I get the same feeling at the edge of the Ocean.  We hope to return to the Rockies with our RV one day to be humbled again. 

Banff National Park

We are so blessed to have been to some really cool places, many of which we never thought we would ever see with our own eyes. What lucky ducks we have been! Our bucket list continues to grow and I can only hope that we are fortunate enough to find more places that we can add to this list.

Today, we continue to look through our photos and get them organized and properly backed up.  We might not be able to pack a bag and go but we are not letting a virus keep us from enjoying our travels.