I survived childhood on an isolated potato farm near Wendell, Idaho (population 1,000) by reading about adventures and faraway places. Back then, it was a big deal to go to Twin Falls, and the 100-mile trip to Boise demanded weeks of preparation. Sometime during those formative years, I made a personal promise to explore the world, and since then I’ve been fortunate to travel to more than thirty countries. Soon I’ll leave on another journey to celebrate six decades of wonder and wander.
My journal is the first priority on my packing list. I used it to write poetry after exploring Coole Park in Ireland and walking in the same woods that inspired William Butler Yeats. My writing is more frantic after riding on the back of a bull elephant and witnessing a tiger kill a water buffalo during a wilderness safari in Nepal. While floating the Nile, I wrote of the breathless excitement I felt descending into the tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Each visit, each discovery is an essential part of my own journey through life.
My journal reminds me of the good times - I’ve swilled beer in Germany, haggled with a jade dealer in Hong Kong, flown through the trees on a zip line in Costa Rica, hiked across a volcano in Hawaii, and sang Handel’s Messiah with a concert choir in the American Cathedral in Paris. Some places I never want to see again: Thailand because I didn’t feel safe, South Africa because it’s just too darned far away, and India where a beggar tried to sell me a baby in the shadow of the opulent Taj Mahal.
I have three favorite places: The Duomo in Florence, Italy stirs my soul. I wept there while standing in Mass and then lit candles for my family members. (Yes, even Presbyterians can attend Catholic Mass.) My second favorite place is Galway, Ireland where somber, intelligent villagers swear that magical fairies live in the trees. I believe them. My third place is home, in Idaho.
Many of my trips were inexpensive. I sang with the Vandaleer Concert Choir at the University of Idaho, and we toured six countries in Europe in 1971. Much to my daughter’s chagrin, in 1995 I volunteered to chaperone her high school tour of Europe. Years later, as the volunteer president for the University’s Alumni Association, I hosted alumni tours through Ireland and Spain. After that, I purchased packaged trips through Egypt and Italy, and yes, I was in a group of gawking tourists that obediently followed the tour guide with the obnoxious flag. But, then it was the best way I could afford to travel. Now I’m grateful for the opportunity to plan and chart my own trips.
As I pack for the next adventure – a two-week excursion of islands in the Mediterranean – it’s easy to pick the regular necessities: comfortable shoes, drip-dry clothes, and my journal. And I’ll make room for my Ipad, digital camera, cell phone and their chargers. Throw in the blow dryer and adapter and I’m ready. This trip will inspire some interesting writing because it’s with my soul mate. After we return, there will be several more pins on my wall map that connect and complete the dots of my personal path.