I am fascinated by every aspect of the places I travel to – the history, military conflicts, politics, what people do for a living, their language, currency, cities and towns, unique architecture of homes, temples, churches, their food, national dress, music, dances, local art, museums, art galleries, religion, customs and of course, the flora and fauna. I have to see and experience it all and at my own pace. My travel guides have been the Youth Hostel locations, fellow travelers, the Lonely Planet and the UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites.
My first excursion was a six-month trip to Europe in 1963, biking, hitchhiking and sleeping at hostels for 50 cents a night. Life on the open road was exhilarating! London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice–nothing disappointed. But it was Istanbul that was jaw-dropping; I had never seen mosques or heard the Imams call to prayer. This was a whole new world!!
I discovered the Travelers’ Century Club when I met Don Madding, a long time member of the TCC. Knowing we shared a love for traveling, he asked me how many countries I had been to. I had no idea as I had never thought of counting them but when he sent me the Approved List, I found I had been to over 70. I had returned numerous times to continents and countries that I especially loved, spending two to six months on each trip. Although there was a bit of a plan, things were left to chance as to where I/we would go and how long I/we’d stay. I have always chosen to stay with locals, in hostels or 3* Hotels.
A trip “down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico” in the summer of 1965 was an interesting turned frightening trip. This was on the Anitra, an exquisite America’s Cup 12-metre class yacht that had been in dry dock in Holland, Michigan. It was heading for its new home in Seattle via the Panama Canal. After stepping the mast at the New Orleans Yacht Club, we set sail for Jamaica.
We got caught up in a hurricane and had to ride it out as Cuba was not an option, and with a 9-foot keel, there was no way we could shelter in the Grand Cayman Islands. Planes were flying overhead, aware of our situation. We LIVED – “The Perfect Storm!”
A five-week African safari by truck was one of the best of my African trips in terms of animal sightings, especially for huge herds of elephants and big cats! I put my heavy canvas tent up and down 34 times and came back “lean and mean.” We took turns as sous-chef with our Zimbawean cook. Itinerary: Cape Town to Nairobi. Favorite experiences: Hiking Namibia’s Dune 45 at daybreak; paddlers taking us through the Okavanga Delta in mukurus; seeing Welwitschia, the oldest plant on earth which can live 2000 years! (Seeds available on Amazon!); the unique Secretary Bird, a long legged bird of prey that kills and eats adders and cobras!; the ATM Cave in Belize, India’s Ajanta and Elora Caves, the 20,000-year old Lascaux caves in France; the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina; Iguaçu Falls; the Nazca Lines; Machu Picchu; The Terra Cotta Warriors; The Golden Temple; Easter Island; the Galapagos Islands; everything in Malta, especially discovering Carravagio’s altarpiece of The Beheading of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s Co-Cathedral; sleeping underground in Coober Pedy; attending the opera Aida in the open air Baths of Caracalla; and looking DOWN on the 4th of July fireworks in New York city from the Windows on the World dining room on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center.
Happenstance experiences: arriving in Istanbul on the eve before ANZAC Day and joining thousands of Aussies and Kiwis in sleeping overnight on the hill for the dawn memorial service in Gallipoli; an invitation to join a Sikh wedding reception in the hotel where we stayed in Amritsar; arriving just in time to catch the hilarious daily border closing ceremony at the India/Pakistan border (Google if you haven’t seen it!); seeing the Dalai Lama while attending the official opening of a Nunnery in Mcleod Jang, while monks distributed sweet rice and then tea to the thousands of us sitting on the hillside listening to the speeches; finding out about the King’s funeral, which would be taking place in Bali the coming weekend while I was in Jakarta … and managing to be part of this auspicious event!
But it’s the people I meet along the way—locals and fellow travelers who warm the heart. I so enjoy belonging to the TCC and reading about everyone’s travels. Only at 107 and so many more adventures await!!