Traveling the World

A middle class, middle age guide for adventure and exploration.

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While my kids were growing up we would read each night before bed. I was a full time single mom, with a full time career and a full time college student. Back then, reading time was an opportunity for us to connect and a valuable way for us to learn about different topics together.

We never really had “a lot” of money. There was always enough to get by but never enough to splurge. Reading became our main and most affordable source of entertainment. This was back in the day when, as a single mom, I knew I could never afford to travel. It was long before the discovery of carrying the world in your pocket, also known as a smartphone.

We were at the library when my son expressed interest in reading, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, written by Patricia Schultz. He was nine years old at the time.

With over 1,200 pages, we spent a year taking turns and reading out loud to one another. We didn’t read it cover to cover. Instead, when it was our turn we’d pick a continent, country, city or town at random. We used Post-it Notes, bookmarking each country after we returned from our journey.

Two years later I bought a used copy for $3. The internet was well on its way to becoming an addiction by then. I also bought a refurbished desktop. We spent most of the school year reading from the book for a second tour de stay-cation. But it didn’t stop there. This time, we had access to even more information. Once we closed the cover of the book the internet search was on, and our travel time kept getting longer and longer.

It’s a decade later. The children are adults. The book sits on a shelf collecting dust. Hundreds of Post-it notes, an array of neon colors, stick out battered with wrinkles and crinkles. They mark all the adventures we’ve been on.

My son’s desire to travel expanded beyond our world and into the galaxies of the infinite universe. He became an auto-didactic astronomer. On warm summer nights he takes me on planetary tours through his telescope I gave him for his 13th birthday.

When my daughter turned 18 she couldn’t stay planted. She’d take off in a moments notice with little to no money, and no plan other than which state she was headed for and which friends she’d be going with. She’d return home when the food and shelter ran out or because being homesick got the best of her. At 24 years old she’s traveled more in her lifetime than I have in mine.

I had just reached my 40’s when I was struck with my first bout of depression. I shut down. The weighted darkness was an anchor, grounding me at home. The depression proved to be a roller coaster cycle in my life and the anxiety, exhausting. At the time, going out into public spaces became panic inducing. The effects of the episode were crippling.

I’ve since adapted to utilizing every resource available to me for traveling to far off lands and in the 21st Century’s ‘age of the internet’ the destinations are limitless. Even 1,000 Place to See Before You Die is now a regularly updated website. When I long for adventure and pilgrimage these are my typical travel plans:

The New York Times 36 Hours

In the past month I’ve traveled to Goa, Miami Beach, San Juan and St. Moritz. I went on a church crawl through 17th century historic buildings, enjoyed Alpine cuisine, hit up the night life along the beach and learned about Puerto Rican coffee farms and exotic beans.

Expert Vagabond

There’s a new and outrageous adventure each week. In under ten minutes Matt Karsten goes where most people won’t. The most uncivilized and untamed places filled with beauty.

Tourist 2 Townie

Gareth Leonard travels the world making each destination his home for three months. His content is detailed and his videos are personal. I feel like I’m right there with him during each expedition.

The Public Library

The library is a magnificent resource for every topic imaginable. I’ve borrowed travel guides for 87 countries. I browse the World Book encyclopedia collection while I’m there and watch documentaries about various countries and cultures through the virtual library at home.

The Local Newspaper

The Sunday print edition of my local newspaper is another means of travel. The Lifestyle section takes a vacation every week to a small, remote place in the world. Each place is epic and I’m envious. Photographs are included and even in newspaper print they are alluring.

Last spring, my husband and I traded in our townhouse, our original “Snow Bird” retirement plan, for a 1961 Franklin Camper. We’re able to bring home with us on local weekend getaways. Later down the road after the kids have moved out and on and my husband retires from his 9–5 gig he and I will tour the state of Iowa to visit all 194 public libraries.

We plan on driving west each year during the winter months to escape the frozen landscape of our home in Iowa. We’ll spend our nights at state campgrounds along U.S. Interstate 80 from Rural America to the coast in California.

Someday, when everyday responsibilities become less significant.

For now, my current destination is the Outermost House, written by Henry Beston. It’s a book I stumbled upon while researching on the internet and borrowed as an inter-library loan from my local public library.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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