As a couple, having traveled much of our life together and individually, Danièle and I are often asked “What drives both of you to travel as much as you do?”
We have been working on our answer to that question for many years and it can best be summed up in four themes:
1. It’s in our genes.
Danièle’s mom was Italian and her father was French, and as can be expected, her childhood travels were divided between Italy and France.
For me, my father was born in Rovno, Russia, a town that became part of Poland when he was 19 years old. (Today it is renamed Rivne and belongs to Ukraine.) He had to pass three “baccalaureates” (high school degrees) in Russian, Polish and French to come to France to study medicine where he met my mother. More importantly, he communicated to her his love of traveling as soon as they got married. After the war, all of our family vacations were spent abroad in Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.
Our background made us restless and we wanted to go far away as soon as we could. Fortunately, we had understanding mothers who supported us, and years later, would be- come all too happy to look after the grandchildren while we explored the world.
2. Travel became natural.
In my university days, I completed my Masters in one year at MIT Sloan in Boston, then worked there for another year before I was required to return to France for military service — fortuitous that I met Danièle, and upon completion of my service, moved back to Boston where she followed me shortly after. We pursued our studies (she got her Masters from Northeastern) and worked for a couple more years and returned to France. We married about a year later. (We eventually returned to the States to live in New York and Cleveland for some time.)
Our travels have not always been equal. As part of my professional life as a consultant, extensive travel was involved. For pleasure, I love scuba diving while she hates water, and I have been to more than twenty countries by myself for diving. Palau is my favorite.
But this has never stopped Danièle from going off on her own to explore a city she knows. This could be in Florence and Montecatini with family, in Rio or New York with friends, or exploring a city like Rome where it is impossible to see everything in our lifetime.
Picking our next destination is a decision usually made together. Gathering guides, maps, information from past trips to the same destinations, articles in National Geographic and so on — I read them beforehand, while Danièle does this afterwards. However, she’s organized a handful of trips — ones she’s insisted on doing like our most recent trip to an Ayurveda retreat in Kerala, India.
We love what we see together, but we do it differently. She is more of the observer, while I try to meet the people.
3. Travel opens our minds.
Inspired to travel widely, we’ve never had a pre-established plan, nor a list of countries to “conquer.” Unlike some who try to get to ten countries in one go and then never to return to any, we’ve never made a trip just “for the stamp.” Just to name a few, we’ve been particularly intrigued by many countries and have returned to Canada and Morocco six times each, and 4 times each in Brazil, China, Israel and Egypt. And this doesn’t begin to count repeat trips within Europe as we’ve been to Portugal countless times.
The result is that we identify more as “world citizens” rather than French as our passports state. We feel more like foreigners living in France or French people who have lived abroad for a long time. This has become evident in the friendships we keep. Including relatives, most are located all over the world and, thanks to the internet, we stay in touch. But even in France, those whom we socialize with are cosmopolitan and worldly.
4. We are left with unforgettable memories.
As storytellers, we have many to tell. Imagine 1976 in China after the death of Mao and at the time of the “Gang of Four.” We’re among the first tourists in China. Our guide was the former interpreter of Chou En-Lai and he spoke better French than we did. Supervised by a political commissar, it felt more like being on Mars. Everyone is dressed in blue, except the soldiers in green with a red star—thousands of bicycles and not a single car. Monster demonstrations with thousands of huge red flags; hundreds of Chinese people. All looking at us with wide eyes and gaping jaws!
Oh, the memories are so unforgettable and it is wonderful to see our children with the same travel bug. When our girls were younger, we took a two-month trip around the USA in a camper. Places like Guatemala and even Brazil to see Haley’s Comet. You name it, we tried to give them the same experiences.
Now? They’ve got the bug and they will continue traveling with their own kids. They’ll soon be ready to join the TCC!
We could go on for hours, but Tim (editor) forces us to limit ourselves. So, the continuation will have to wait when we’re able to sit together in the Azores to share more stories.