Traveling is good for mind and soul, recommended for all
I’ve had the good fortune to do some traveling during my lifetime – more than some but not as much as others. There are many road warriors who can make my travels look miniscule – traveling every week for business. More retirees are now traveling, racking up the miles. Families are more mobile today. Much of my travel has been of the leisure variety, but some of it was business-related.
I’m a proponent of travel – especially international travel – because it changes your perspective on just about everything. I vividly recall 1985, when I joined a group of broadcasters for a three-week tour of China with Chinese broadcasters as our hosts. Two weeks after I returned home, Martha and I left for three weeks in Switzerland and Germany. I’ve never looked at the world in the same way since.
We support the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) program that gives students the chance to study abroad. We believe the experience has the same kind of impact on them as it did on us.
Food, culture, politics – you name it – a person comes away from a foreign trip with an appreciation that our American system isn’t the only one that works (at least, some of the time) – others in the world do, too – maybe not as well as ours, or maybe even better for a few.
While thinking of my travels, I recalled my first real trip to Upper Michigan. There are two things about that 1949 trip that stuck in my mind: we went to the garbage dump about 8 p.m. one evening to see bears come out of the woods for their evening meal.
The second involved me leaving a pair of shoes in the motel room at Blaney Park as we headed to Sault Ste. Marie. So on our way back home several days later, we stopped at the motel, explained why we were there, so the proprietor checked our room where, surprise – he found the shoes still under the bed. It still makes you wonder about how well motels clean the rooms.
We didn’t take many trips in the 1940s – the only other one I remember was a family excursion to Niagara Falls. Our eighth-grade trip in 1952 was to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and after high school graduation, four of us drove to Montreal and Quebec, returning via the northern route through North Bay and Sudbury in Canada.
I’ve thought about all the places I’ve been – by car, train, boat and airplane – and I was startled. I can’t recall all the automobile trips, but I do know that for more than 40 years, we took at least two every year to Alabama, Martha’s home state to visit relatives and friends. In the early 1980s, we motored about 5,000 miles on a trip to the West Coast, driving home across Canada from Banff to Winnipeg. There were others, too, to Glacier, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Mesa Verde National Parks and Phoenix.
Train trips included several between Milwaukee and Chicago, one from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee, and a few vacation trips – on the Agawa Canyon, Canada, and Taieri Gorge, New Zealand, trains. We took a train between Christchurch and Blenheim, New Zealand.
We also got to ride in the cab of a New Zealand freight train around Dunedin after an engineer friend for Tranz Rail made special arrangements for us. We took a train through the mountains near Interlaken, Switzerland, and rode a cog train up and down at the Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau peaks there.
There were train trips in China and Russia – I recall doilies as headrests on the Chinese trips and attendants passing out hard candy and prizes – I got a free necktie. The Russian train was old and dingy, and we spent a long time on that overnight ride waiting on a sidetrack between Yaroslavl and St. Petersburg. Very little sleep on that one. I also rode subways in Washington, D. C., and Tokyo.
I haven’t traveled much by boat – the most pleasant was an overnight excursion on a ship between northeast Italy and Greece, via the Adriatic. My first boat trip was across Lake Michigan on the Milwaukee Clipper, and we’ve taken several trips across the Cook Strait between New Zealand’s North and South Island via large ferries. The most interesting journey on water was a week-long raft trip on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Airplane trips make up the rest of my travels, and I compiled a list of airports I’ve visited. The volume startled me: Albuquerque, Amsterdam, Appleton, Athens, Atlanta, Auckland, Beijing, Birmingham, Boston, Central Wisconsin, O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, Christchurch, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Clintonville, Colorado Springs, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Flagstaff, Eau Claire, Fort Lauderdale, Frankfurt, Fort Myers, Frutigen, Switzerland, Grand Canyon, Grand Cayman, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Hangzhou, China, Hartford, Conn., Hong Kong, Honolulu, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Kalamazoo, La Crosse, Lansing, Lexington, Ky., Lincoln, London, Los Angeles, Madison, Manitowoc, Melbourne, Fla., Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Moscow, Muscle Shoals, Aala., Nadi, Fiji, Nashville, New Orleans, New York JFK, , Omaha, Osaka, Japan, Palm Beach, Pensacola, Peoria, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Quad Cities, Ill., Rockford, Rome, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Fe, N.M., St. Petersburg, Russia, Suzhou, China, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Tokyo, Tucson, Tupelo, Washington Reagan and Wisconsin Rapids.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few more.
About the longest we’ve been away from home is three weeks – and that seems to be an optimum time. As that point comes closer, we get the feeling that it’s getting to be time to return home. Travel is great, but it always seems good to return to familiar surroundings.
When I arrived in Stevens Point in 1963, I heard there were several people around here who’d never been outside Portage County. There still might be a few today. But it’s hard to believe, and I feel sad for anyone who hasn’t had the “travel” experience.
If you’re among folks who haven’t traveled much, I hope you get to do more of it in the coming years.
It’s refreshing, educational and fun to experience what the rest of the world is like. Like us, you may make some really good friends in distant places!