Audrey Walsworth is one of the few women who have completed the TCC list of countries and territories.
People often ask me how all this came about, that one day I would complete the Travelers’ Century Club list. Well, that was never the plan. Everything just evolved.
I was a young mother living in rural Missouri, when my mother and aunt decided to visit the birth country of their parents. Casually, I said to my husband Don, (this was in 1969), that if I ever wanted to go to Lithuania, this would be a good time since they were both fluent in the language and I just had a child’s fluency. He said, “Why don’t you go?” And I did and loved it, even the long flight.
Years later, in 1980, at a club meeting we were all asked: “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?” I said, China, because it had just opened up. Told my husband and again he said, “Why don’t you go?” Miraculously, the next day we read that the University of Missouri was organizing a trip to China. Before I realized it, he had signed me up. That was one of the most memorable trips because it was still Mao’s China.
By now, I am thinking about where to go and when. Again the University had a trip, to Egypt, Tanzania, and Kenya. I took that and once again loved everything. Discovered that the things that fascinated me most were the different cultures.
In the next ten years I went to Tibet, Antarctica, Burma, Iceland, Greenland, Rwanda, the Silk Route, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I wanted to go to places before they were changed by tourism.
Each trip instead of taking a place off, would end up adding two or three. How do you go to Ethiopia and see the underground churches of Lalibela and not want to go back and see the Omo Valley and the Mursi with their lip plates? How do you go to Laos and see the lovely temples of Luang Prabang and not want to see the Plain of Jars?
On many trips I was alone, several with friends of mine, some with groups, many with TCC members who had decided to do what I was doing, and so there was company going to places that no one in their right mind would want to go unless they were chasing countries.
One example would be Diego Garcia. Twelve intrepid TCC members rented a small boat for the four-day rocky sea trip. Finally there, we were greeted by a high-speed boat with four British Commandos with drawn guns. They wanted to know “What in the hell are you doing here?” We flashed our permit, thank heavens we had one. They put the guns away, came aboard, and we suddenly were friends.
Along the way there were unbelievable experiences, fascinating people i.e. the Bondi in India, the Jarawa in the Andaman Islands, interesting customs, beautiful scenery, horrible beds, fantastic food, sometimes unbelievably bad food, bugs, heat, extreme cold and language problems. But all of that made for wonderful trips. There is not one that I am sorry to have taken, and many that I wish could be taken again.
My time is running out and I have a bank of wonderful memories, but there are still things to see and places to go.